Call to ban packed lunches criticised by Hampshire councillor

LUNCHBOXES Pupils at Manor Infants, Portsmouth eating their packed lunches
LUNCHBOXES Pupils at Manor Infants, Portsmouth eating their packed lunches
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A REPORT recommending banning packed lunches in schools has been criticised by a county councillor.

The government-commissioned report has today said only one per cent of packed lunches meet the nutritional standards of school food.

It found many packed lunches included crisps, sweets and chocolate, while school dinners have improved since celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s campaign against unhealthy food like the Turkey Twizzler.

Cllr Peter Edgar, is executive member for education at Hampshire County Council and ward member for Alverstoke, in Gosport.

He said: ‘I don’t think that is a reasonable way to operate.

‘There are many parents who actually are extremely careful about making sure the packed meal has healthy ingredients.

‘A blanket ban would not be fair.’

He added the recommendation for the government to bring in free school dinners for all primary school pupils –an extra 3m children – was not a ‘realistic aim.’

Dad Andy Mellers, 35, of Gosport, said he gives his six-year-old son Oscar healthy food.

He sends Oscar to school with a packed lunch, with two pieces of fruit, a sandwich, cheese and crisps, four days a week.

‘You can’t take every bit of niceness out of it, it’s almost like putting a kid on a diet,’ he said.

‘It is the parents’ responsibility to make sure their children eat healthily.

‘My little boy’s school won’t let you put chocolate in a packed lunch, I agree with that.

‘I don’t think they should ban packed lunches, I don’t think you can.’

He added Oscar, who attends Gomer Infant School, in Gosport, does not always like what is on the school’s menu but the £2 a day school dinners are cheaper than making packed lunches.

The proposals come from a report by Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, co-founders of the Leon restaurant chain.

They had been tasked by education minister Michael Gove to look into school dinners.

Mr Dimbleby said headteachers agreed eating good food not only improved children’s health but also their performance in class.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the problem of schools selling chocolate and crisps to pupils through vending machines and tuck shops was now ‘much, much less’ of an issue than it was before.

But he said: ‘More than a half of our children bring packed lunches into school and two-thirds of those have crisps in them and two-thirds have confectionery in them.

‘The best schools – the schools that have good food – find ways of making packed lunch the less exciting option.

‘Some of them ban packed lunch altogether.’

Child nutritionist and author Jenny Tschiesche said packed lunches can be healthier than school meals.

‘Parents are up in arms at the thought of having to pay for school dinners,’ she said.

‘It doesn’t cost more than £2 to put together a healthy packed lunch, in fact it can cost significantly less.

‘It is very possible for parents to put together a lunchbox that is healthier than a school meal.’

Ms Tschiesche warned that children often do not eat the fruit and vegetables included in school dinners, while parents who prepare lunchboxes know what healthy options their children prefer.

‘A parent that puts together a packed lunchbox has a greater degree of control,’ she said.

‘Most parents don’t even know what goes in a school dinner.’