School Food Plan urges ban on packed lunches

The School Food Plan suggests school meals are more nutritious than packed lunches. Credit: ITV News

Schools in England are being urged to ban packed lunches to increase the take-up of school meals.

A Government-commissioned study found that take-up of school meals remains at around 43%, despite a marked improvement in quality.

ITV News correspondent Kate Fisher reports:

The review, dubbed the School Food Plan, suggests packed lunches are often less nutritious than school dinners and a ban could improve children's health and raise standards in the classroom.

The plan, co-authored by the Leon founders Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, also urged headteachers to change the food culture in schools by:

  • Lowering the price of school meals

  • Providing free lunches to primary school pupils

  • Encouraging teachers to eat with children

  • Creating a stay-on-site rule for breaks and lunch time

  • Having a cashless payment system to shorten queuing time

  • Offering school cooking lessons for parents and children

Mr Dimbleby and Mr Vincent have spent more than a year working with schools, councils, caterers, parents and the Government to put together the review.

Mr Dimbleby said they hope it will increase the take-up of school meals from 43% today to 70% in the future:

The Department for Education has vowed to spend £16.1 million over the next two years as part of the plan.

This includes £11.8 million to increase the take-up of meals, and £3.15 million towards installing breakfast clubs at school for the thousands of children who arrive there hungry.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said breakfast clubs ensure "school can be a nurturing place where they can get the nutrition they need in order to succeed".

Jamie Oliver, who campaigned for healthier school meals and the demise of the Turkey Twizzler, congratulated the Leon founders on the report, saying, "More needs to be done to improve standards and teach kids about food":

However, the Association of School and College Leaders has warned that banning packed lunches is not the answer.

General secretary Brian Lightman said, "Encouraging all students to eat a nutritious, hot, school lunch is the right aim, but it is not always feasible".