School dinner menus to be overhauled
Balance of Good Health guidelines
The move is intended to try to counter bad nutritional habits and to stave off the beginnings of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Nothing will actually be banned - old favourites such as crisps, jellies, chocolate and pastries will still be available and encouraged to be eaten in moderation. However a range of healthy options must always be offered alongside them.
New catering legislation brought in under the auspices of Balance of Good Health guidelines now makes it obligatory for every school to provide children with balanced menu options every day. The move is intended to try to counter bad nutritional habits and to stave off the beginnings of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Nothing will actually be banned - old favourites such as crisps, jellies, chocolate and pastries will still be available and encouraged to be eaten in moderation. However a range of healthy options must always be offered alongside them. These are to include menu items consisting of recommended quantities of carbohydrates and protein such as fish, eggs, meat, yoghurt and milk and so on. Slightly different rules will apply to secondary schools than to nurseries to take account of the differing nutritional needs of children of different ages all will follow the same basic recommendation to serve at least one option from the main categories and to limit starchy and fried food.
Despite the move, caterers are stressing that parents must not sit back and leave it to schools to guide children in the ways of good nutrition. They point out that much can - and must be done at home - to educate youngsters into good habits.
Catering Consultant, Pat Fellows, was invited to contribute to the new guidelines and reinforces this issue, saying, 'School caterers cannot hope to change children's attitudes and habits if parents are undoing any progress being made in school by feeding their children a diet of snacks and fast food outside of school.'
Her views are confirmed by Beverly Baker, chairman of the Local Authority Caterers Association, who points out, 'Parents cannot totally rely on the school to provide a balanced diet for children when school meals only account for 190 of the 1195 meals, plus snacks, children eat on average in a year'.
News of the Balance of Good Health guidelines comes in the same month as free fruit hand-outs start for approximately 80,000 children across the country, a move designed to reduce the incidence of cancer and heart disease in some of the UK's poorest areas. A recent National Diet and Nutrition Survey had discovered that children raised in poorer families are 50% less likely to eat fruit and vegetables, leading to a higher likelihood of impaired health - something that Health Secretary Alan Milburn is looking to redress with the fruit handout campaign. Says Mr Milburn, 'I want every child to get the best start in life so they all get the opportunity to do well.'