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Free school meals, so much waste!

(72 Posts)
Twoweekcruise Sat 23-Sep-17 10:48:48

I've recently started as a midday assistant at our local primary school.
I would say most days around 70-80% of the pupils have a school meal, obviously most of these are the free school meals offered by the government.
These meals look and smell delicious and are cooked by scratch by the cook and her assistant.
However, I have been taken aback by the amount of waste. Most of the children eat a tiny fraction of the food and then most of it gets thrown in the bin.
This must be happening all over the country and although I don't know what the answer to this would be, AIBU to think this is a shocking waste if food and of tax payers money?

skinoncustard Sat 23-Sep-17 10:54:06

At my local primary (Scotland) all the children finish at lunch time on a Friday, so they are given a packed lunch . The vast majority are binned before they are out of the playground !

Fairyliz Sat 23-Sep-17 10:56:32

Yes I know what you mean, I work in a school office where the meals are shipped in. I am sure sometimes more waste goes back than food delivered.
I would like yo tell parents how awful the meals are but it isn't allowed!

Bluelonerose Sat 23-Sep-17 10:58:35

I can't comment on how much is wasted but what I can say is ds2 will come home and tell me he's had dry pasta, dry bread and peas for lunch it's no wonder he won't eat it. My point is sometimes I think the younger kids are given too much choice without really knowing what it is.
I don't see why with today's technology we can't pick our kids lunch and the school serve them that. We used to have a paper menu in primary school that youde take home your mom would pick your dinners for the week youde hand them to the dinner ladies and they'ed get your lunch.

I also think they've switched to healthy eating for school lunches (not knocking it I think what Jamie Oliver did was fabulous) but the attitude to food is still the same. I've been saying for a long time why don't schools do more food tasting as surely this would encourage them to eat their school meals?

Ca55andraMortmain Sat 23-Sep-17 11:01:34

I'm a teacher and see a lot of this as well. I think part of the problem is with the systems in place though. At our school the children can't specify what they like and don't like - they can choose between eg sausage and mash or a baked potato but they automatically get whatever sides accompany the main, whether they like them or not and those just end up in the bin. The portions are also the same for all the children so the 5 year olds are given the same amount of food as the 11 year olds which leads to lots of waste. Similarly to a pp, the kids can't refuse the Friday packed lunches, even though lots of them go to their dads' or grandparents' houses on Fridays and get taken out for lunch, so the food get chucked.

Twoweekcruise Sat 23-Sep-17 11:06:37

I definitely agree that the portions are way too much, often something like pasta and bread together with a cake for dessert. On roast day it's meat, Yorkshire pud, 4-5 roast pots, veg and dessert! They also have the dessert given at the same time as the main meal which imo is wrong as it sits there staring at them, way to tempting!

alltouchedout Sat 23-Sep-17 11:07:52

Maybe they don't like the food. Ds2 used to be hungry a lot when on school meals as staff would ignore him and insist he had to have gravy or beans or sauce etc, which he would retch over and would mean he couldn't eat the meal at all. Often he had bread and cucumber from the salad bar, but then a lunchtime assistant told him he couldn't have that as he wasn't eating any of his dinner. We gave up at that point and went back to packed lunches.

Surfingwhippet Sat 23-Sep-17 11:14:33

At our school, yes they do have to have everything on their plate but if they say they don't like something they will only be given a teaspoon.
We recently changed dinner suppliers and the waste has reduced dramatically. From 8 or 9 bags for 260 children to 3 bags and the portions are slightly bigger with the new people. Having said that they do only get 2 roast potatoes not 5

Surfingwhippet Sat 23-Sep-17 11:14:43

At our school, yes they do have to have everything on their plate but if they say they don't like something they will only be given a teaspoon.
We recently changed dinner suppliers and the waste has reduced dramatically. From 8 or 9 bags for 260 children to 3 bags and the portions are slightly bigger with the new people. Having said that they do only get 2 roast potatoes not 5

PinotAndPlaydough Sat 23-Sep-17 11:16:57

It would probably be a logistical nightmare but I think one answer would be for the children to serve themselves. However the younger ones would probably need an adult at their table to help them.
When I was an early years manager this was always one of the first things I would implement in a new setting. Not only does it give the children a sense of responsibility and autonomy but the waste was drastically cut down on. Children took far smaller portions than an adult would give them and were more willing to try vegetables and new foods if they were in control of how much there was (a teaspoon of peas is far less daunting than a great big serving spoon).

We were able to manage it because the ratios in an early years setting a much higher, I guess schools would have to ask for parent helpers or maybe see if year 6 children wanted to help reception ones. The children also cleaned up after themselves, so plates were give a cursory rinse in a bow of water and they wiped the tables and swept the floors but that might be a bit much for schools!

IdontlooklikeEmmaWatson Sat 23-Sep-17 11:18:49

AIBU to think this is a shocking waste if food and of tax payers money

expatinscotland Sat 23-Sep-17 11:21:06

Works better in secondary school where they're able to chose what they want to eat.

Mummyoflittledragon Sat 23-Sep-17 11:21:29

The meals are the same for a 4 yr old as an 11 yr old. Some 11 yr olds are well over 5ft. Even if the children want to eat the food, waste is inevitable.

roloisking Sat 23-Sep-17 11:21:32

When I used to teach in primary, one of the main problems was children eating next to nothing in a rush to get out to play (even if they had a packed lunch containing lots of stuff they liked). At the risk of sounding like an old gimmer, they would probably eat more if they had to sit down for a specified amount of time.

MrsOverTheRoad Sat 23-Sep-17 11:22:09

Better give them gruel eh OP? hmm

Or force them to eat it?

This is a pointless and suspect OP.

Fax Sat 23-Sep-17 11:22:45

How ridiculous that 5 year olds get the same portions as 11 year olds confused. many year sixes will have reached puberty and have huge appetites.
There were no free lunches when mine were at primary but DS was 6' and in men's clothing sizes aged 11 and he wasn't the only one.

Mummyoflittledragon Sat 23-Sep-17 11:23:48

There is also the issue of not being given enough time to eat. Dd often brings things back in her packed lunch because she ran out of time.

AlphaStation Sat 23-Sep-17 11:25:40

When I was little, we had to say "1", "2" or "3" referring to the portion size and then the ladies put enough food on the plate (small to big portion).

FormerlyFrikadela01 Sat 23-Sep-17 11:26:53

If you think that's bad you should see how much we throw away in the nhs unless you work on a ward with a lovely housekeeper who let's staff have a go on leftovers

I thinks it's inevitable when you're mass catering for people tbh. Although I like the idea of serving themselves but would be a logistical nightmare in bigger schools.

Grimbles Sat 23-Sep-17 11:27:42

Where does the free school meals come into it?

Should kids on free dinners be made to sit there until they have eaten every scrap, or should they get a different, smaller dinner?

Maybe they could serve up all the leftovers to the free dinner kids to reduce waste?

womaninatightspot Sat 23-Sep-17 11:28:49

I think that a lot of school kitchens/ canteens are under tremendous pressure to get kids through as they do a rolling service. I know in our school food is pre-chosen in the morning and plated before you get to canteen so sausages come in gravy with veg on side. Everyone gets the same and I don't think a 5 yo needs the same as an 11yo. I just ensure DS1 has a decent snack pack of oatcakes and an apple on days where he doesn't like the food.

It's probably good for him to learn that not everyone will pander to his slightly fussy eating but it is wasteful. Maybe school should adopt a pig to feed scraps to.

Twoweekcruise Sat 23-Sep-17 11:28:54

I do think it's strange that reception kids are given as much as year 6.

BeyondThePage Sat 23-Sep-17 11:29:17

PARENTS say that kids MUST have vegetables with their meals every day - so every child is given whatever vegetables are on offer that day.

PARENTS say that portion sizes for Y6 were too small - every child pays the same, so every child gets the same.

etc, etc, etc - for every complaint there will have been a ruling determining that this is how it must be - because of what "parents" want.

PovertyPain Sat 23-Sep-17 11:30:04

Blurgh. This has taken me back to the days when the dinner ladies used to make you clear your plates, before you could leave the table. I rarely got dinners, or indeed packed lunch, but that's a whole other story, but on special occasions all the kids got free meals. I couldn't eat mashed potatoe for years, after being made to eat every scrap of 'Smash' 😩 off my plate. I can still feel it trying to come back up my throat. Powdered puke.

Threenme Sat 23-Sep-17 11:33:05

The school dinners at my kids school are rank! I wouldn't expect them to eat them because I wouldn't. They'd both get them free I think because they're in ks1 but they take pack up. Even the sandwiches in the 'packed lunch' option look vile! No butter and a see through slice of ham. If parents get them free and need their kids to have them which I completely understand, then I can equally understand how the kids bin them!

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