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AIBU about school meals vs packed lunch

(17 Posts)
RachelWatts Mon 19-Jan-15 11:13:26

DS1 is in Y1 and, like all KS1 children, entitled to free school meals.

By our family standards he's not a particularly fussy eater, but doesn't like rice or pasta - this is not particularly unusual in my opinion as many in my and his dad's family don't eat them either.

Unfortunately, for some reason, despite the school menu being balanced and varied, for some reason on a Monday, all available options are pasta based, which means there is nothing DS1 will eat and on those days he was going hungry.

This was not acceptable to me because on a Monday he does an after school sports club, so he doesn't get picked up until 4:15.

I spoke to his teacher and she said it would be OK to send a packed lunch on those days, so I've been sending a really boring, small pack-up just on a Monday as a backup if there is really absolutely nothing he will eat. The intention bring that he goes for his lunch in the canteen, and then if hungry, has his sandwich at the end of school before his club.

I didn't think this would be a problem as, even if I didn't send a backup sandwich, his dinner would be wasted anyway as he wouldn't bloody eat it!

The school secretary has just left me a message to say this is not acceptable, and he must be either on packed lunches or on school dinners and cannot swap and change between them.

AIBU to do this? And also to tell the school that they need to give feedback to the company providing the school meals that having days where the only options are pasta in various different forms is daft - he can't be the only child who won't eat it!

I think maybe they've been letting him eat his packed lunch instead of going for school dinner, rather than as an emergency 'just in case' scenario.

CaptainAnkles Mon 19-Jan-15 11:21:51

I understand it if they've said he can't go in for a school dinner, decide whether he wants it, and if not then eat the lunch box. That is a waste of time and he'll run out of time to eat.

There shouldn't be a problem for him to just have a lunch box on a Monday and school dinners the other days though. My DD looks at the menu for the week, decides which data she wants them and takes a lunch box on the other days, her school has no issue with the children mixing and matching.

RosyAuroch Mon 19-Jan-15 11:22:35


I have no idea why they are making things so complicated.

PurpleCrazyHorse Mon 19-Jan-15 11:23:47

Do they have jacket potatoes as alternatives? DD's school have these every day as well as the canteen also producing sandwiches. This was also the daily alternative at her old school (totally different area several hundred miles away)

First of all, I'd double check that there really isn't any alternative. If not, I'd simply say to the school that your DS will be eating pack lunch every Monday. It shouldn't be difficult for them to accommodate it as it'll be a regular thing.

I think bringing an emergency lunch might be the problem as I doubt there's time for him to queue up, try the lunch and then eat his packed lunch afterwards. Therefore he does need to be either packed lunch or school dinners IYSWIM.

Mangobubbles Mon 19-Jan-15 11:23:56

Yanbu, Did you explain that your son's teacher has allowed the arrangement? I would have thought that his teacher has more authority than the secretary... Also, strange that school are not offering much variety. Our school has three options each day including a jacket potato every day, which sure wouldn't be too much trouble for your school.

Chattymummyhere Mon 19-Jan-15 11:27:15

Send him for school dinners with an after school snack box in his backpack?

I'm guessing there is something with the pasta, vegetables and meat he could pick around, do they have the salad bar as well ?

If he try's the hot dinner then goes on to the pack up he will end up wasting all his lunch break as well as possibly making another child late to lunch if its all one hall in groups.

We are lucky we can swap and change for different days if wanted

Aherdofmims Mon 19-Jan-15 11:32:54

YANBU to expect to be able to do pack lunch on Monday and school dinner other days.

YABU re the emergency lunch. As others have said there may not be time, and also it seems to me to send a bad message re eating what is in front of you. It does seem like more of a waste of food than if he just doesn't eat the lunch somehow.

Unless he is intolerant to the ingredients I can't believe anyone is unable to eat any form of pasta.

AppleAndBlackberry Mon 19-Jan-15 11:38:36

At DDs school they choose what lunch they are having first thing every day on the interactive whiteboard (meat option, veggie option or packed lunch). The lunchtime staff can't really cater for children who want to try the hot lunch and have a packed lunch as a backup, imagine the nightmare if everyone did that. I think you need to choose one or the other and send an after school snack if you need to.

WhatWouldJoanDo Mon 19-Jan-15 11:42:48

What would happen if he were genuinely gluten intolerant? Packed lunch every day? Genuinely just curious, as originally from but not not in the UK

LaLyra Mon 19-Jan-15 11:44:21

I don't know many schools that would allow him to go for school dinners then change to a packed lunch if he didn't like anything. I think he needs to be one or the other, in many places packed lunches don't eat in the same room, they are supervised separately etc.

That said there shouldn't be a reason why he can't be a packed lunch on a Monday and lunches the rest of the week.

Also if there really are nothing, but pasta options on the Monday I'd be asking why.

RachelWatts Mon 19-Jan-15 11:47:04

Sounds like he can't have pack-up just on one day. It has to be all week.

And it's the canteen manager who has complained - the secretary was just passing the message on.

Anyway, I've spoken to the secretary now and she understands what I'm doing and I've said I'll speak to DS1 to make it clear that he understands the pack-up is for emergencies and to be eaten in afternoon break if needed.

She also thinks it's daft that Monday seems to be 'vegetarian pasta day'!

Vycount Mon 19-Jan-15 11:50:45

You are speaking to the wrong person Op. Just drop a line to the HT outlining the problem, and rather than making the focus about your son's choices, maybe emphasise that it's only a problem because of the limited options on Mondays when the rest of the week is good.
Oh, and I might question whether it's really the role of the canteen manager to send a message to a parent via the school office. I'm pretty sure that it should have been handled by his class teacher.
Schools approve the menus supplied, this can be influenced.

Flomple Mon 19-Jan-15 11:50:59

Sounds like wires crossed to me. So the pack up is only to be eaten after school? Say that to the school - he is FT school dinners and the lunch bag contains his snack for after school.

LizzieMint Mon 19-Jan-15 11:55:04

Why on earth don't the school let you decide per day what he's having? Mine have packed lunch whenever it's something they don't like, and school dinners the rest of the time. They just say in the morning what they're having (as a pp said, it's on the whiteboard first thing for them to choose).
Can your DS really not have one day as packed lunch and the rest as school dinners?

Tinkerball Mon 19-Jan-15 12:18:55

What's the problem with mixing packed lunches and dinners? It's never been an issue at my boys school and they genetally went packed lunches with an occasional dinner as a treat if I had the money.

Flomple Mon 19-Jan-15 12:30:07

Yes but some schools insist you commit to one or the other, it's not that unusual. Makes sense for them I imagine, so they know quantities.

Some private schools also have compulsory school dinners.

skyeskyeskye Mon 19-Jan-15 12:37:55

With our school you decide every morning, but you can have a packed lunch instead, but you would obviously have to take that in advance. We are given the menu on a Friday ready for the following week, so plenty of time to know if they need a packed lunch one day. What you can't do is send a packed lunch as a backup if they dont like the main meal. It has to be one or the other, which is fair enough.

I don't see why you can't choose to take a packed lunch one day, I think the problem is because he is being recorded as a school meal, then he might not have it, so on those days your DS should take in a packed lunch and say no to school dinner. I presume that is what their issue is, is that he is being recorded for dinner then not having it.

DD has got this 1 year of free school dinners so I am encouraging her to have one every day and not take a packed lunch at all.

If it is beefburger and wedges, she will eat the wedges and the bun as she doesn't like the burger (veggie option is veggie burger). There is also a third option which is either a sandwich or jacket potato or wrap.

Most days there are sensible options, but sometimes it is chicken noodles/vegetable curry/tuna sub salad roll, none of which DD will it! But apparently they can ask for a jacket potato with cheese if there is really nothing at all that they like.

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