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'Scrotum' Burgers cause behavioural and learning problems according to the Times Newspaper article

(21 Posts)
FIMAC1 Sat 12-Mar-05 21:13:19

SO OFTEN in politics you come across “no-brainers” — policies that are so obviously good, popular and money-saving that you simply can’t believe they haven’t been put into practice. You want to shout: “You’ve been in office for eight years — for goodness’ sake, just get on with it!”

Improving school meals is a classic example. Only last week, Ofsted reported that behaviour in schools had not got better at all over the past eight years, despite a £660 million Government-funded Behaviour Improvement Programme. If just a small slice of that were to be siphoned into providing fresh, unjunky school lunches and reimbursing schools for banning vending machines, teachers would not have to cope with disruptive pupils fired up on caffeine, sugar, fat and E-number highs.

In one episode of Jamie Oliver’s School Dinners, an excellent series running on Channel 4, the TV chef gives a troublesome pupil decent food at lunchtime and then encourages his parents to cook it in the evening. After a week, their children’s behaviour improves dramatically; and when, as an experiment, they go back to eating rubbish, it deteriorates.

We have all watched small children go crazy at birthday parties after having gorged on crisps, chicken nuggets, chocolate and fizzy drinks. So why are we surprised that they behave badly when, at secondary school, they can buy three out of four of those from vending machines and the fourth in the canteen? Most of what passes for food at school — what Oliver calls “horrible scrotum burger and reconstituted, mechanically reclaimed sacks of old fish” — goes straight from the deep freeze to the deep fryer. Dinner ladies are generally trained not to cook, only to unpack processed food and immerse it in sizzling fat.

School lunches seem to have evolved from being inedible and slimy in my day (spam and boiled cabbage) to being unhealthy and greasy now (Turkey Twizzlers and chips). Said Twizzlers, against which Oliver rails, contain just 34 per cent turkey, the rest being made up of water, pork fat, rusk and coating, topped up with additives and flavourings.

Of course children will choose deep-fried, breadcrumb-coated nuggets with chips if these are on offer. Of course they will dose up all day on Coke if they can. These products are like drugs: they are chemically enhanced to hit the spot. But you don’t have to offer them. Nor do you have to allow children out at lunchtime to go to the local chippy instead.

In France, school lunches consist of four courses of really healthy food. They have to meet very strict nutritional standards, and many schools hire their own nutritionist to supervise the menus and liaise with parents. In Italy, a recent law obliges local councils to offer organic and high-quality products on their menus. Experiments in individual schools in Britain have shown that, once children get used to eating proper food, they enjoy it more.

But it’s not just the pupils who need educating; it is often their parents, too. Oliver was astonished to find parents abusing him for replacing rubbish food with decent fare. “It’s crap”, “It’s f*ing shit”, “Put the real food back on the menu”, were some of the insults he faced. A few parents even turned up outside the school at lunchtime with McDonald’s cartons which they slipped through the school railings to their children.

What were these parents thinking of? Ask them if they want the best for their child, and they are bound to answer “yes”. Yet they are bringing their children up to be disgustingly unhealthy, possibly obese and probably to die prematurely — not to speak of the attention deficit problems the children will suffer along the way.

We can’t stop parents serving up Turkey Twizzlers and chips for supper every day. But we can influence the food pupils eat at lunchtime. And if we can convert the children to the virtues of healthier food, they might even persuade their parents, too.

But it can’t realistically be done for 37p per child, the price of a bag of crisps. You could barely feed a dog for that money. The French spend far more, sometimes more than £1 a head. In Italy it is between 70p and 90p per pupil. Oliver reckons that, to produce a varied and nutritionally balanced menu, a school needs to spend at least 70p per child.

Parents could be asked to pay a little more, but the Government needs to stump up, too. Ministers say they want a healthier nation, they want better behaved pupils and they want to curb antisocial behaviour. Here’s a policy that could achieve all those things. It’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?

To support Jamie Oliver’s campaign, sign the petition on:

ponygirl Sat 12-Mar-05 21:20:25

*<<applauds loudly>>*

ionesmum Sat 12-Mar-05 21:30:56

great post!

Gobbledigook Sat 12-Mar-05 22:01:47

Absolutely. I've signed it!

HUNKERMUNKER Sat 12-Mar-05 22:07:05

Yay! Just hope that all of the rhetoric leads to actual action... DS isn't at school yet, but when he is in three short years' time (), I hope that the food the school serves is healthy. If it isn't...I'll do a Jamie on them!

Tortington Sun 13-Mar-05 18:17:38

good post and agree with it. but just wanted to add that when money is tight the crap food is a lot cheaper to buy than fresh produce - as jamie is finding out on his programme - you can feed kids shit for 37p a day but he is finding his budget hard to keep once he turned healthy.

re education costs money and so does the healthier option. money means taxes. the lib dems never got in on telling the truth about a tax increase.

school dinners is only one on the list of many things which our taxes would have to pay for in order for it to get better.

i personally would like to see it change, i also want pensions to last forever and the NHS to provide a devent service with well paid professionals - feck me i will have no wages left

ionesmum Sun 13-Mar-05 19:12:23

custie, they manage to find enough money for civil service junkets and minsters' lovers' travel exes, they can bloody well find a couple of quid to pay for a school meal each day.

roisin Sun 13-Mar-05 19:30:38

I must admit I am struggling to work out how this could be financed. (Which is not to say it's not a great cause to be championed.)

At our school a school dinner costs £1.55: If 37p (say) is food costs, then the rest must be staff costs plus capital depreciation of the equipment - yes?

Jamie's menus clearly require far more preparation time (than bunging frozen burgers onto trays), and therefore staff costs will increase dramatically.

Increasing the amount spent on food by 13p or even 33p is not the end of the story. The total cost increase will be far more ... but no-one appears to be giving these figures.

People may hold their hands up to approve an extra 13p to be spent on food, but are they really going to stomach say, a 50% rise in the cost of a school dinner. (I've just made that figure up btw, but it doesn't strike me as unlikely.) But what I'm saying is no-one is providing these figures. Or are they?

I would be quite happy to pay realistic money for decent food btw, as I know my kids would (mostly) eat it, and I would value it. But I'm not sure many parents at our school would be able and/or willing to.

Tortington Sun 13-Mar-05 19:35:25

good post roisin

ionesmum Sun 13-Mar-05 20:03:16

The government wastes sooooooooooooo much money. I read today that the civil service hire cars for John Prescott's dept. alone have driven the equivalent of going around the world 250 times. Or what about the Dome, the money spent on the Olympic bid, the money that will be wasted policing the foxhunters, the money spent killing innocent people in Afghanistan and Iraq...I think they could find the money if there was the political will to, they seem to find it for everything else they fancy.

ionesmum Sun 13-Mar-05 20:05:03

That's without allowing for the costs to society in dealing with the behaviour problems of kids stuffed full of e-numbers, or the adults with coronary heart disease and bowel cancer. A couple of quid spent now could save thousands later on.

Tortington Sun 13-Mar-05 22:27:39

save thousands for whose government? thing is the olympic bid if won will mean massive income and jobs in the country and give a deprived area the social and economic boost it desperatlery needs.

the war in iraq - may kill a few people but think about how much money that represents to those powerful interested parties.

foxhunting may well be policed - but not with
extra police i fear but with those who have been pulled from other duties or the "specials"

am not sure about the car statistic - it sounds like a sun soundbite. even if we could possibly influence what and how many cars they drive and one day they all drove 1.0 scientos it wouldnt save enough year on year to help all our school children eat more healthily.

either our taxes go up -or tony waits for this fad to be over or for him to go out of power - then we will get the tories saying the country is so fucked up it will take us a long time to fix it.

Janh Sun 13-Mar-05 22:38:15

It was the Tories who ran down school meals provision (starting in 1980) so I hope to god they wouldn't have the brass neck to blame Labour for how things are now.

roisin's post is good but doesn't factor in profits...I would be v interested to see a detailed breakdown of where the £1.55 per child, or £1.18 after the cost of the "food", goes. Anybody got a breakdown? As has been pointed out on JO's prog, dinner ladies are not skilled cooks - they merely empty packaged stuff onto trays and heat it.

FIMAC1 Sun 13-Mar-05 22:56:14

I have seen an article which breaks down the costs - can't remember where now. I think the breakdown gave the catering companies around 50-55% of the proceeds though.

FIMAC1 Sun 13-Mar-05 22:58:59

Also figures giving the Government spending 1.4 billion on school meals, and 2.4 billion on health related issues in children due to poor diet

ionesmum Mon 14-Mar-05 10:55:24

Interesting stats, FIMAC.

Custie, don't want to get too far off topic but most of my family live in East London and they are fed up with promises of regeneration that don't happen. First it was the London Arena. Then it was the bloody Dome. Then they were promised the World Athletics Championships - but the government ballsed that one up and the IAAF moved it to Paris. The only thing they know for certain is that they'll have to pay for whatever happens out of their council taxes, whether we get the Olympics or not. What that area needs is investment now, to bring people out of grinding poverty and to make the streets safe, and neither this government nor the previous one has given a toss. Maybe the government could stop spending money on its own buildings (wallpaper at £200 a roll?) or on ministerial cars to stop the wives' hair getting messed up, but I'm not holding my breath. And meanwhile it's our children and our old and poor who are paying the price for our politicians' monumental vanity.

Keane Mon 14-Mar-05 11:03:50

what will happen?

I predict school dinners will be no more and packed lunches only

dinosaur Mon 14-Mar-05 11:05:07

DS1 goes to primary school in a poor and deprived East London borough but the school lunches there are fantastic - not a turkey twizzler in sight - there's nothing that Jamie Oliver could teach them!

ionesmum Mon 14-Mar-05 11:09:49

That's good to hear, Dinosaur . Has your school opted out of the meals provided by the local authority?

Keane, even this government wouldn't have the cheek to get rid of school meals.

Mind you, I thought they wouldn't have the cheek to introduce university tuition fees either.

dinosaur Mon 14-Mar-05 11:10:54

I think they must have, ionesmum.

Are you in East London as well?

ionesmum Mon 14-Mar-05 11:18:06

I grew up in Romford but my parents come from Plaistow and I have family in Romford, Silvertown and Custom House. I now live near Cambridge. Whereabouts are you?

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