Lunchbox World's Take on the School Food Plan

Last night I headed up to attend the School Food Plan meeting held at the Grey Coat Hospital C of E School, just on the edge of Westminster in Central London. "Let's get involved!" "Let's help make lunchboxes cool!" we said! "Lunchbox World is all about putting the FUN back into packed lunches!" "We must avert this suggestion of a lunch box ban!"

Hosted by motivator Steve Head, with Gabby Logan speaking on her childhood, her personal experiences with food, her kids, and co-Founders of Leon, John Vincent and Henry Dimbleby both in attendance, the scene was set for a FUN inspirational evening, discussing my favourite topic: healthy food, the British eating culture, lunch for school aged kids and of course the school food plan

Steve Head motivating the attendees!

Multiple screens for easy video footage viewing

Arriving early, I managed to squeeze in some healthy snacking and a much needed cup of tea, as the evening was the coldest I've experienced in a long time.... The carrot and apple muffins were just sooo delicious!
Lunch box recipes to follow, so do check back...

First let's talk about the positives: The success stories in school

Many success stories in schools were heard: how healthier eating habits have been adopted in some establishments, gardens created, regular cookery workshops held, breakfast clubs introduced to help kids kick start their day in a positive and focused way.  Some schools even keep chickens, so they can bake with fresh eggs in the after school cookery clubs!  We even ventured over to some blue sky thinking as the evening progressed.  More of that later!

I had thought there'd be lots of resistance to talk of change, but actually everyone was amazingly positive. (The resistance may be waiting for the attendees back at the respective schools however...We will need strategies as to how best manage the change).

From catering managers, Heads of schools, teachers, representatives from British Nutrition Foundation, the Lunchbox Doctor, Food consultants including School Foods Campaign, Food for Life and more, the range of folks under the same roof was incredibly diverse. Apparently reported to be the best attended venue yet, the 7th of 7 events, but then you would expect that being in London, the capital.

We all jotted down our healthy eating success stories and helped build this wall...

We've still a long way to go but the shift is evident! We need to embrace the change, embrace the "eating culture", move away from the existing culture of "feeding-on-the-hoof", and getting the kids out the door. We need to continue to move away from this "feeding culture", offering kids a quick fix, and not just think of food as fuel. Food and eating has to be a lifestyle.

We need to take a leaf out of the French book. Here comes the blue sky thinking bit.
French school aged kids have two hour lunch breaks for a reason. There is an art form that is being lost in the UK and we need to bring it back! Part of the eating occasion, having lunch in school includes the social aspect, the sitting down occasion. The social interaction with your peer group. And like the French, they definitely eat with their eyes!

Some schools continue to scale back the time allowed for lunch. I was horrified to hear a 35 minute lunch rule was being considered/introduced in certain schools in the North of England. We need to hang on to that lunch break and hang on to those PE and Games classes and ensure they continue to be a valid part of the school curriculum, regardless of gender or ability.

Worse still, many schools segregate the kids, creating unnecessary barriers, which naturally reduces the amount of time kids want to spend on lunchtime eating.  They separate those having school dinners from those having packed lunches. So give the kid the option of having lunch with a stranger, or charging outside to play. What will they opt for? PLAY of course!

In our local school, we have no option for school dinner provision. The kids have to take in a packed lunch and they only have the option to eat at their desks! There is no kitchen! There is no other available space where they can eat away from the classroom. So the kids are being trained to "eat and go" and are doing exactly what a growing number of office workers are doing: Eating "al desko!" 

What are we actually saying to our kids with these actions? That it is ok to eat at the desk? That we should not take a break? That they're not allowed to be social with their friends?
I could really get on my soap box here....

My kids are all slow eaters, so need more time to eat their lunch. And so they should. We are supposed to savour those tastes, tantilise our taste buds, and let our brains compute that we are actually eating. Then the brain has those automatic triggers that kick in and we get a sense of when we are full. I am no nutritionist but I do have common sense. We need to re-educate the nation on the eating culture. 

We heard an amazing case study from a charming caterer of the 25 years she had spent in her local secondary school in Hackney. She was invited to stand up and tell her story by both Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent. She even received a round of applause at the end of it!
She had seen school kids transformed from close to tyrant behaviour through eating junk, fast food, filling up on sugary fizzy pop, considered to be low academic achievers of 25 years ago, to the change that ensued after the introduction of healthier eating policies in school. The kids had been exposed to and educated on healthy eating. A sense of calm now reigns in that school, academic achievement has increased due to the kids actually being able to concentrate and the kids all love being involved with food, from actively serving it to cooking it as well.

If you are keen to contribute or get involved, do look at the School Food Plan website for more details or comment below.

This is our opportunity to get involved and help shape the future of our kids. Eating and Food is so important to our daily life and welfare.

If you're desperate for some fresh, FUN, healthy lunch box ideas meanwhile, do check out our recipe section and hints and tips sections. Or if you have a problem or issue, comment below, and we'll answer as many as we can!

Make sure you have your say!

The Lunchbox World Lady x

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