Free Hot Dinners

I'm not against this idea. Honestly I'm not, but I have reservations about it. It's taken me this long to actually get round to posting about it because, I've needed to think it through, I needed to make sure that what I was saying wasn't a knee jerk reaction, but more a well thought out response. So, the Government says that it wants to give children in the lower years of Primary Schools a free hot meal at lunchtime. Well, free as in the parents won't have to hand money over to the School to get them but as I understand it (and I really should make it my business to know stuff like this), I pay various different taxes which will ultimately fund the lunches.

Right, my first reservation about this plan isn't about the funding of the lunches (although where is the money coming from? Aren't we in debt as a country and shouldn't we be funding things like Policemen, Fireman, Nurses, people fixing potholes, getting the Armed Forces equipment that they need etc) but where exactly are the children going to be eating these hot lunches? At the School where Top Ender and Big Boy go to, they used to eat their lunches in their classrooms if they had a packed lunch and in the hall if they had a hot meal. They changed it so that everyone now eats in the hall. Basically my point comes down to this; Where are the extra Children going to go?

Does the School your children go to have a Canteen that has the space for EVERY child, teacher, teaching assistant and dinner lady in the School? Are they going to need to eat in time slots? Does it mean that children like Big Boy who need to eat at a specific time because of medical needs are going to go first and then other children second? Is there going to be a timer letting the children know there slot is almost up, because another 50 children or so need to get into eat their lunch? Are the older years going to eat later in the lunch period?

Talking of medical needs, Big Boy needs to have the exact amount of carbs worked out for what he is eating, this way we can give him the right amount of insulin. At home, I do this by weighing out all of his food. I have to do this, I can't be gungho and just slap a portion that looks the right amount on his plate because we've learnt the hard way that controlling his blood sugars is a lot easier when we know exactly what he is eating. Can you see a School Caterer using a scale to weigh his meal, to ensure that it is exactly 35g of Mashed Potato he is being given? Are they going to have time to be doing this day after day, when they need to serve 100+ other children at the same time?

What about Children that follow specific diets? What about families who keep Kosher? What about Celiacs that need to ensure that they don't eat wheat or gluten? The current school meal supplier at Tops and BB's School provides a great menu for meat eaters and a second equally great one for vegetarians. Are they going to provide a different menu for each different allergy and specific diet requirement or are they going to adapt the menus to ensure that they are suitable for a wide cross section of diets? The costs for something like this isn't going to be small, and take it from experience catering for several restrictive diets at the same time isn't easy and the end results aren't always tasty.

All the recent data that I've seen has said that it is older School Children needing a hot meal. The children taking exams are the ones that need the meal so that they can concentrate and yet, they are being excluded from this plan. Apparently eating one hot meal at School a day will teach the younger children a lot too because according to Nick Clegg;

"teaching healthy habits young, and boosting attainment early, will bring the biggest benefits"

Really? One meal a day is going to teach healthy habits? How exactly? Surely teaching the children how to cook (like I and probably you were at School and our Mother's skirts) and teaching them a more healthy relationship with food would be better? And whilst we are at it, teaching parents the things they actually need to know about food would be better too? Or is that too much of a Nanny State?

The other problem I have with this, and a lot of parents will have is that I have more than one child. Tops won't be given a free hot meal, but surely she'd need one too? So if I start paying for Top Ender to have a hot meal at School, do my children now get two hot meals a day? One at lunch and one at home with me? Surely two meals like this would mean that the rates of obesity in our children would increase?

Then again if the children have a snack or a sandwich in the evening at home and no longer eat with their parents is this the end of family meals? It wouldn't be practical for me to eat a hot meal at home at lunchtime as it's just me. With Flyfour being at work, I'm sure he'd be able to get something from the canteen but only if they cater for his dietary needs...

As I said, I am not against the idea, I just don't see how it's going to work or benefit families and children and there is a lot more that people need to think about how it is going to change their lives at home.


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