The Conservative Manifesto, while putting forward many innovative ideas about Education has come up with one idea that is very counter productive – replacing free School lunches for all children in the first 3 years of Primary School with the offer of a free School Breakfast for every child, in every year of Primary School. So School Breakfast v School Lunch does it make sense?
Jamie Oliver, who has campaigned for years trying to improve our children’s school food has already been on television and social media putting his views as to why the Conservatives are wrong in proposing this.
The Conservative Manifesto states
“We do not believe that giving school lunches to all children free of charge for the first three years of primary school, regardless of the income of their parents, is a good use of Public Money.”
–Therefore why would giving free breakfast to all children throughout primary school, regardless of the income of their parents, be a good use of Public Money? That makes no sense at all.
“The savings made from this change will be added to the core school budget, meaning that every penny saved will go towards children’s education“.
How will this save any money?
The schools are already set up for producing hot meals at lunchtime and the lunchtime period is already staffed, whereas to have a breakfast club involves extra staff for preparing, serving and clearing plus extra staff for supervision and preschool activities.
The free lunch is a protein based meal, usually hot and containing vegetables and much has been done over the last few years to give healthy options. To save money and ‘make breakfast for all’ a cheaper option would involve giving high carb and probably high sugar cereals and bread.
In trials so far this has involved Cereals, bagels, crumpets and toast with spreads and milk or fruit juice which is going to do nothing to help with obesity. Some children might even have two breakfasts, one at home and then one at school followed by no lunch if it has to be paid for!
I also don’t see that yogurt, fruit, bacon, sausages and eggs are going to be on offer or any special dietary choices as they obviously put cutting the budget over improving child health with this policy.
Here are some of the facts
1 in 7 primary school age child is obese.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies in 2016 showed evidence that programs for free breakfast had an effect on nutrition, health and school attendance for disadvantaged children but it was much less conclusive in higher income areas. Take up rates were low at 13%-52% and that it would only prove to be cost effective where more than 35% of the children were eligible for free meals.
There is probably a good case to be put for Breakfast Clubs where both parents work or where there is a larger number of single parents, or limited childcare facilities before school but then this should be paid for as childcare rather than taken away from school food budgets exclusively. In some relatively wealthy areas parents are prepared to pay £25 a week for this facility.
There has been plenty of research on Breakfast clubs over the last few years and many schemes are proving it can make a huge difference to children’s happiness, concentration and achievement. The Welsh Government spend £12.7m a year on providing Breakfast in three-quarters of primary schools, poor areas of London have breakfasts that are paid for by the Mayor’s Fund. Other Breakfast clubs are paid for by parents and run by volunteers.
What we need to do
We need to make provision according to need and we should maybe lower the threshold for those children who are eligible for free meals and be able to use childcare allowance towards the cost of pre-school clubs. In this way we might be able to afford healthier food and snacks in our schools to make sure that no children go hungry or malnourished. It is also a great opportunity to educate them in making healthy choices for themselves so that, from a young age, they realise that a bag of crisps and a can of Coke is not a good breakfast and how having a balanced meal with protein and healthy fats will give them prolonged energy and brain power.
If Theresa May and her team really want to make this a fairer society then they need to put decision making back into the hands of the Schools and the Parents and subsidise policies appropriately. If we get it right we might save £millions in NHS costs by preventing obesity and diabetes.
So School Breakfast v School Lunch?
Let’s not prioritise breakfast over lunch but provide the option for both where needed and fund it appropriately without stigma, for the health and wellbeing of our children and to help working parents.
For more information on low carb kids check out this great website Ditch the Carbs