Discovering that there'll be no hot dinners at some schools has provided a fresh source of ire for many families planning the much anticipated start to the new term next week. For those kids, not only are classics like sponge and custard now mere memories from COVID-besmirched Spring, there's also little prospect of when they might enjoy their comforting yumminess again. But lunch, in whatever guise it takes, is really important, since full tummies means happier children and a more productive and perky afternoon.
In fact a healthy meal at lunchtime has been shown to promote better reading skills in the early years, and improved educational outcomes in English and Science (love science - hooray!).
What's scary is that whilst there are strict guidelines about hot dinners (thanks to Jamie Oliver's work 15 years ago to ban the infamous Turkey Twizzler, currently trying to make a reappearance, and on this occasion I don't mean in the same way as the sausage tartare in previous blog post "Chicken Run(s)"), lunchbox kids are able to take in sugary drinks to slurp, and treats laden with saturated fats, and actually only 1% of packed lunches meet the nutritional standards that are expected in schools. Yikes! These figures come from the 150-page tome-like School Food Plan, which you can read in more detail at the gov.uk website. NB this is also where you can book a COVID swab (see how it all loops round beautifully?).
A healthy diet is key to almost every possible medical ailment. So teaching kids about tasty healthy foods sets them up for a good relationship with food later on, and reduces their risk of all sorts of nasty bodily problems. Please don't act so befuddled when we ask you what the adults in your house are eating if you bring in your child who has a diet-related problem. I'm serious; if there's a multipack of Hobnobs in every cupboard, we'll sniff them out (as will, I expect, your offspring). Even over video-consultation - we're canny like that. Though supposedly other (inferior) biscuits are available. Because listen, if you think I wittered on about diabetes recently, then how about the high incidence of dental caries in young children? Um, thanks Haribo. And what about the fact that more than a quarter of children are at risk of iron deficiency (which can affect their behaviour and intellect)?
Maybe you're bored of the standard sandwiches, apple and a bag of crisps? Well if you're not wiping away the drool at the thought of a yummy lunch, get some inspiration here. and for anti-sandwichers try here. Just remember to check with your school in case there are allergies you need to be mindful of.
Finally, you know I'm not only interested in the contents of the lunchbox (ahem!), but let's ensure the actual box itself is fit for purpose (erm...) - will it keep the contents cold or warm and provide a decent barrier to germs? Can it be washed in hot water rather than just wiped? I mean you could earn yourself some serious planet points here if you're on the scout for a new box/bag or your very first one. Perhaps you're an adult looking to take lunch to work and jealous of all the stylishly kitted out kids zipping past you on their bikes as you sit enveloped by increasing annoyance in the very slow traffic on your 4-wheeled commute? Maybe you want to out-eco other colleagues by proudly showing off your wares on the communal draining board. Well the benefits of avoiding a new plastic box are big. BIG. Let's not increase the demand for plastic. It's sitting there smugly on the shelf, knowing it will outlive you by a good 1000 years as well as propping up fossil fuel demand (sulky eyeroll). Walk by, friends! Instead choose something made of recycled plastic, bamboo, or organic cotton. Yorkies can look in at The Bishy Weigh, or if you prefer to browse online check out this link, and also Ethical Superstore. And these animal shaped bags with their cute ear ties are pretty irresistible. They're Scandanavian-inspired too. Do you really need any more persuading?
Basically, all plastic eventually ends up embedded deep in our landfill, seeping into the soil or possibly being ingested by an animal. And there, it's in the food chain. Yum. Still want that bag of nanoplastic-flavoured crisps in your lunchbox? Enjoy.