Saturday, September 23, 2006

Where did the jaffa cake go?

Politaholic got a nasty shock this morning when he turned on Radio 4 and heard John Humphries mention "lunchbox standards". Thankfully it is school dinners he was talking about (Phew!). The School Food Trust has set standards for these. Humphreys interviewed Julie Hardagon, the SFT Chief Executive, and brought up the case of the mother who packed a lunch for her child made up of a tuna sandwich and all the "healthy stuff" but who wantonly included a jaffa cake. Apparently the school - which presumably inspects these lunches for hidden contraband - removed the jaffa cake (What became of it?). Humphreys thought this outrageous; Hardagon explained it was because of a rule that there should be no confectionary during school hours. Meanwhile at Rawmarsh Comprehensive in Rotherham a revolt is under way. The school does not allow pupils to leave the premises during lunch hour and has banned junk food. As a result parents are passing sausages to their kids through a gap in the school fence (hence the case of the "Rotherham Sausage"). The revolt has grown. Parents are now delivering 50-60 meals a day: pies, fish-and-chips, burgers, and fizzy drinks. Their kids, they say, don't like "rabbit food". Of course, what the SFT and Rawmarsh School is trying to do is commendable, but their methods - policing lunchboxes and coralling children - are unutterably foolish. There is no easy solution to the problem of children's unhealthy eating (and which of us would want to cast the first stone?) but this kind of thing calls for persuasion and education, not compulsion. It also appears that price is a factor: the school meals are not cheap. There is no question that eating healthy is easier if you have a good income. I also suspect that class resentment is a factor; that working-class parents don't like "being talked down-to by holier-than-thou middle-class do-gooders". Perhaps this is a tad unfair, but on the basis of this interview there was nothing about Hardagon's elevated manner which suggested that she had the vaguest comprehension of this aspect of the matter.


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