Healthy School Meals Regulations Branded Draconian

Fergus ChambersCatering operators claim strict healthy eating rules are leading to pupils rejecting school lunches in favour of fast food., with Fergus Chambers of Cordia, responsible for running Glasgow’s school canteens calling the regulations draconian.

He claims many pupils are rejecting school dinners in favour of making a dash to chip shops, however, nutrition experts argue caterers will have to do more to ensure healthy food appears attractive to pupils.

According to Chambers, the rules had banned items like diet drinks, flavoured water and home baking from school canteens, but all pupils had to do was walk out of the gate any buy whatever they liked, telling BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme that there were draconian specifications in place.

He said everyone accepts children’s diet needed to be improved to reduce obesity, but there was a right way of going about it, such as keeping children in the playground at lunchtime, or banning food vans from operating near schools.

Statistics show 30,000 fewer schoolchildren per day in Scotland are enjoying school meals since the new legislation came in.

The issue raised at a conference on Scottish diet that Glasgow University’s Faculty of Medicine department organised has, Mike Lean, Professor of Human Nutrition at Glasgow University saying it was a ‘complete absurdity’ for school meal providers to be arguing against providing children with nutritionally balanced meals.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said it was up to local authorities to decide if pupils were allowed to leave school grounds during lunchtime, though some councils have taken steps to prevent chip vans from trading near schools during lunchtime.

Figures show the number of secondary pupils in Scotland eating in school canteens fell to 39.2% last year, the lowest level for a decade, while uptake of school meals in Glasgow fell to 38%, compared with 61% in 2006.

Scottish schools began their drive to improve food in schools in 2003, when the previous administration launched the Hungry for Success initiative, with regulations designed to take fatty foods and sweets off the school dinner menu, introduced in primary schools in 2008 and in secondary schools last year.

At school, children are limited to deep fried foods once a week and chips served only as part of a balanced meal.