I have two school age children and since they have started school, we have done a mixture of school dinners and packed lunch. During the depths of a Scottish winter I like to think they've had something hot, freshly cooked and nutritious to see them through the afternoon, and as the menus are sent home, I can look through to see what's on offer.
This week for example the kids are being offered chicken curry with rice or hot dog on Monday, mince pie with mash or tomato pasta on Tuesday, pork loin with wedges or pizza on Wednesday, roast chicken or beans on toast on Thursday and fish and chips or chicken grill on Friday. So far so nutritious.
Just before Easter however we had a letter home informing us that the cost of a school lunch would be going up to £1.90 with immediate effect. A quick survey among my Facebook friends showed that this figure was towards the lower end of average, with most people paying over £2 for their school lunches. So is this value for money?
I don't think it is. My 6 year old adores pizza and begs every Wednesday to have a school lunch. However, for my £1.90 she gets two tiny slices of pizza straight from the freezer into the oven, a carton of milk, slice of bread and some fruit salad or a yoghurt. No wonder when she does money lunch she comes home starving. I understand about overheads and costs, but this is seriously poor value for money. Two children in school having school lunch every day would cost me £19 per week, and I doubt if I spend a third of that on providing a packed lunch.
Portion size was also highlighted recently by the blog of a 9 year old, Martha Payne, who started uploading pictures of what she was offered at lunchtime. Martha lives in the next door county to me, and what she is offered is indicative of what Scottish schools are dishing up to kids. My kids don't get offered seconds either. The publicity created by Martha's blog has shown that things really haven't moved on since the Jamie Oliver campaign demonised the Turkey Twizzler.
Is it really too much to expect that our kids have access to a well-cooked, healthy and value for money lunch at school?