My own memories of school dinners are somewhat hazy.I was mainly a packed lunch kind of girl, and only had hot dinners on the odd occasion, but I do remember an abundance of mince and pasta, cold chips and pink custard. Why was the custard alway pink? I will never know. I asked a few friends what their #SchoolMealMemories were, only to uncover a hidden memory bank as long as my arm!
Debs from Super Busy Mum remembers a delicious sounding traybake, made from cornflakes and all sorts of sticky sounding goodness – sounds much nicer than the puddings I remember!
Emma from The Mini Mes and Me told me about how the look of the dinners at her old school was enough to make her ask for sandwiches every day – yet now her children are at school the menu is vastly improved.
Many other friends spoke of lumpy mash, watery stews, endless pink puddings (cake, custard, blancmange) and having to choose between a carton of milk OR a pudding.
Fast forward a few years, and my children love school meals. They tend to have them 2-3 times in an average week, and always seem to be happy with them. Whenever I ask, they tell me it was yummy and that they cleared their plate. From September, there will be free school meals for all primary school children aged 4 to 7 (all kids in reception, year 1 and year 2). While this doesn’t affect Gemma, it does mean that Jacob will be entitled to a free hot dinner every day, and I have no qualms at all about taking up that offer. The way I see it, it means I know that he will get a hot, nutritionally balanced and varied meal every day which will give him the energy he needs to manage the afternoon. Packed lunches are all well and good, but only 1% of packed lunches meet the nutritional standards of school meals these days. 1%! That’s a truly shocking, and somewhat scary statistic.
It also means that I save money. Packed lunches actually cost more than you might think to prepare – buying all the ingredients for 2 packed lunches every day isn’t cheap! From September Jacob will get a free dinner, and Gemma’s will cost £2. Just £2 for a hot dinner and a pudding!
If you take a look at the Children’s Food Trust primary school lunch menu you can see the variety children are offered these days. There is definitely no soggy semolina or watery mince on offer. In fact, the menu is mouth watering, with something for every taste and appetite. Allergies, dietary requirements and correct portion sizes are all taken into consideration, and there is heaps more variety than when I was at school. I especially like the fact that foods from other cultures are included.
So, the days of bad school meal memories seem to be gone. In their place, there is the potential for some great school meal memories to be made, and I am grateful that my children are able to experience that. So, yes, Jacob will be having free school meals next term, and I am thankful that this scheme is available to him, and in the future, Max too.
*This post is written in collaboration with the Department of Education.