From soggy chips to sticky semolina

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Can you remember what your school dinners were like when you were a child?

Maybe you have fond memories of healthy salads and fresh fruit, but I’m guessing the majority of people will remember the not-so-appetising soggy chips and sticky semolina.

My experience of school dinners actually started well. At my Portsmouth infant and junior school our midday meal was quite tasty with a roast dinner on a Wednesday my favourite.

Although looking back, letting us have a cup of gravy to drink if there was any leftover wasn’t the healthiest decision for our growing bodies.

I also remember us being allowed to go up for seconds and even thirds if more than enough food was cooked that day.

It was when I went to my Portsmouth secondary school that dinners took a turn for the worse. Most food would be served with a dose of dripping fat.

Whilst waiting in the queue to be served, I’d see the sausages sitting in the fat that sometimes would have hardened around them.

Pizza, although tasty, would be served in a paper bag and the fat from the cheese would seep through the paper bag and leave the holder with a greasy hand.

Put that together with the crunchy egg sandwiches thanks to the complimentary egg shell and the always lumpy mashed potato, school dinners throughout my teenage years weren’t tasty or healthy.

Over the past 10 years the school kitchen has changed for the better, thanks to that famous campaign by television chef Jamie Oliver.

Well this week marks another big change in our children’s schools with new rules coming into force across England. They stipulate that one or more portions of vegetables or salad be made available every day with at least three different fruits and three different vegetables to choose from each week. Plus there must be an emphasis on wholegrain foods in place of refined carbohydrates.

Water must be the drink of choice, whilst limiting fruit juice portions to quarter-pints due to the amount of sugar.

My favourite new rule is that at school our children will now eat no more than two portions a week of food that has been deep-fried, batter-coated or breadcrumb-coated.

As for my daughter’s school, it has boasted about healthy and nutritious meals for as long as she’s been there and so far she’s had no complaints. As far as I’m aware, gravy drinks are off the menu.

At home the healthy regime continues. But of course junk food isn’t banished completely and will make an appearance as a treat from time to time – and not just for the kids.