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School dinners v. Packed lunches - normal split?

(19 Posts)
RaisinHell Tue 20-Sep-11 10:40:13

Can anyone say what the normal split is between children on school dinners and those on packed lunches? 70:30? 50:50?

Does there have to be a certain percentage of children on school dinners for them to be finacially viable?


redskyatnight Tue 20-Sep-11 10:56:58

In DD's school there are about 20-30 children (out of a school of 200) that have school dinners on any given day.

They have centralised catering and meals are shipped in daily.

RaisinHell Tue 20-Sep-11 11:51:57

redskyatnight, thanks! Wow! That is surprising, I had thought that the 'norm' was for school dinners and packed lunches were the minority.

Oggy Tue 20-Sep-11 11:51:57

I would imagine it would vary wildly from school to school, e.g. in schools with high percentage of free school meals I would expect there to be a much higher percentage of school dinners.

Also quality of school dinners vary greatly from school to school, the better they are, the greater I woudl expect the uptake to be.

verybusyspider Tue 20-Sep-11 12:08:44

the vast majority of children at ds's primary have packed lunch, like redsky said it is brought in daily, children have to choose from menu 1 or menu 2 by 10am on the day they want to eat.

To be honest I've no idea how county work out what is financially ok for them but I know that when I have all 3 in school at £1.85 a head for school dinners then packed lunches will definitely be cheaper - as it is I think its cheaper now with only one in school (mostly because I recycle what he doesn't eat one day for the following day blush). I think the quality is fine but its the cost for me and that ds's peers are having packed lunch (as am I so as we eat together in eve I have to cook them all anyway)

and 'in our day' smile (for me thats about 25 years ago) we couldn't take in packed lunches it was the norm/expected at primary to have school dinners

RaisinHell Tue 20-Sep-11 12:45:37

This is all interesting, I had assumed that it was like 'in our day' for me too it was definitely the norm to have school dinners. Packed lunches were actively discouraged and probably banned in infants.

I agree it's cheaper to make a packed lunch, here school dinners are now £2.10. Our percentage of kids on school dinners is dropping significantly.

Jinx1906 Tue 20-Sep-11 13:01:24

We are in Bexley, in our primary school dinners are £2.30 I believe. If I add up the cost of what is in our lunchbox it would be cheaper to have school dinners. I would prefer for my DD to have school dinners but unfortunately in our school all food is shipped in, often kept warm for a long time and the ingredients, especially meat are not of a very good quality imho.

PatriciaHolm Tue 20-Sep-11 13:11:08

The norm here is still school dinners; I'd say 70/30 split here?

Abgirl Tue 20-Sep-11 13:12:28

DSs at a surrey school. Proportion of children having school dinners is about 65:35, but it does vary by season, more have packed lunches in the summer, and by day, roast dinner is served on wednesdays and this is extremely popular. I am Chair Of Governors and have taken an active interest in this as we campaigned to get our servery (with school meals shipped in from another school) turned into a proper kitchen - this opened a year ago and the proportion of children taking school dinners has shot up. It's £2 per meal and although I winced a bit this month when paying for both DSs for the first time I know it's very good value as the food is great and I've been reliably informed that DS1 normally gets seconds and sometimes thirds if he can get away with it. (should also add that he then eats a full meal at home in the evening too...)

In answer to the OP, yes there will be a point when school dinners are not financially viable, it depends on the size of the school and the catering arrangements.

RhinestoneCowgirl Tue 20-Sep-11 13:19:56

DS is in Y1 in a fairly large primary (3 form entry, 4 form from this year). I say anything between 5-10 school dinners in his class of 30, depending on time of yr.

Our dinners are £2.10 and my gut feel is that this area doesn't have particularly high income level (although not quite low enough for free school meals). I can definitely do packed lunches for cheaper, but would consider school dinners if I was working as one less thing to do in the morning (and would pay for the convenience).

lemonmousse Tue 20-Sep-11 14:29:17

At the school where I work we have had free meals for all Primary children for 2 years (pilot scheme in Durham). Now that parents have to pay again the numbers having dinners have dropped dramatically. For example - back in July when the pilot was still in force about 80% had dinners and 20% had packed lunch. Now it's about 30% dinners (including those who are still entitled to free meals) and 70% packed lunch.

I suppose people have just got used to not having to find that extra money every week. The cost is £1.50 per day (actually cheaper than 2 years ago) so really we seem to be getting off quite lightly compared to other areas!

mankyscotslass Tue 20-Sep-11 14:40:19

Our school is 60% dinners, 40% packed lunch.

School dinners are £1.90 a day, and with 3 DC at school I just can't afford them to have dinners, much as I would like to. It's far cheaper for me to do them packed lunches.

lemonmousse Tue 20-Sep-11 14:46:07

I know what you mean mankyscotslass we have one Mum with 4 kids in our school - that would be £30 a week for her - she made me laugh when she said "I just make a bloody loaf into sandwiches every day and nobody except me gets a say in what goes in them" grin - she's amazing!

midnightexpress Tue 20-Sep-11 14:46:21

Not sur eof the split, but I agree with Oggy that it will depend to a great extent on the area wrt the number of children on free dinners.

At our school though you don't have to choose one or the other - you get a rolling three week menu which changes twice a year and each day the children can choose if they want a school lunch or a packed lunch. Much better system imo than having to do one or the other, especially when i forget to buy the bread.

midnightexpress Tue 20-Sep-11 14:47:26

Am shock at some of the prices - ours cost £1.20.

irregularegular Tue 20-Sep-11 14:48:43

Research area: Annual Survey of school meal take up in England
What is it?: A survey of all local authorities in England to collect data on take up of school lunches and to find out about factors affecting take up. The survey also gathers contextual information about school lunch provision.
Summary: Average take up in 2010-2011 was 44.1% in primary schools, an increase of 2.7 percentage points compared with 2009-2010. In secondary schools, take up was 37.6%, an increase of 1.8 percentage points compared with 2009-2010. Coverage of schools nationally was 78% in primary and 54% in secondary schools.
Sample and setting: Local authority in-house and contracted catering providers, private school catering contractors, school in-house catering providers. Survey conducted every April to cover previous financial year.

carocaro Tue 20-Sep-11 16:52:22

DS1 aged 9 has packed lunches as he says they are quicker to eat and he can get out and play quicker, too much wating about he said with school dinners!

DS2 just started in reception and want packed lunches like his brother and dinosaur shaped sandwiches, so all based on that really!

Hulababy Tue 20-Sep-11 16:59:59

I work in an infant school: Pretty evenly split most days in my Y1 class. On a Friday, which is fish and chip day, there are more children having school dinner than packed lunches.

DD goes to an independent prep school. School dinners are compulsary for all.

3duracellbunnies Tue 20-Sep-11 18:04:23

The split I think is about 60 percent school lunches, which are #1.95: except in reception when we order, we say termly which days they want to eat it and the children decide that day what they want. It is cooked on site. Mine have them once a week when they go on the walking bus on their own as a little treat and so they don't have to carry so much. With two there and one more in a few years would be too much to do every day, can make lunch for 50 -70p. We are lucky as some schools you can't mix and match.

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