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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Losing my appetite

A query from a constituent about school meals has led me to the Welsh Government;s draft guidelines on healthy eating in schools. They are available here if you are interested.

The guidelines run to 79 pages and are designed to deal with all food and drink served to pupils at break times, lunchtimes, afternoon break and after school clubs across the whole school day in all local authority run schools. This includes all food and drinks served at any outlet on school premises at these times, for example a school tuck shop, vending machine, outside serving area or canteen.

There is a very detailed table on pages eight, nine and ten setting out precisely how food can be served. Bread for example, should only be available without spread. Try getting a five year old to eat that. My eye though was drawn to some of the definitions:

What is fruit?

Fruit is an individual piece of fruit, canned mixed fruit cocktail, single canned fruit, fruit salad, fruit pieces/wedges and fruit juice served unaccompanied. and:

What is a fruit based dessert?

A fruit based dessert is a dessert that either has a portion of fruit within the dessert e.g. crumble, pie, tart etc or a portion of fruit served with an accompaniment

I am glad we cleared that up.

I am told that these guidelines have been implemented in Neath Port Talbot alongside the removal of choice on school menus. Children therefore have to take the food on offer or leave it.  The outcome in one school has been a 20% reduction in school meal take-up.

These kids now largely rely on unhealthy sandwiches, sweets and savouries which the guidelines say should not be provided by the school. A good example of the inflexible application of guidelines having an unintended consequence.
children must also eat desert with a spoon in their right hand and must without fail wipe mouths with a handkerchief after finishing the meal.
Children should also be advised to put their chairs in a tidy manner when finishing food and further guidance may be that talking at the dinner table should be prohibited.
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