The benefits for your child from eating school meals 19

I am a huge believer in school meals.  My boys have both had school lunches since they started school and I firmly believe that there are huge benefits for kids from eating school dinners.

Free school meals for infant aged children in England


As from this September all infant aged children in England (reception, year 1 and year 2) are entitled to free school lunches.  For me this would be a saving of over £900 (although my boys are older).  This was piloted in Durham and was a big success.  Children in the pilot areas quickly moved ahead of their peers elsewhere, by almost a term.  Hungry children can’t concentrate and it helped solved the problem of  feeding pupils who are “not quite poor enough”. These children come from low-income families who don’t quite qualify for free school meals, but can’t afford to pay for them – or to put together a good packed lunch.  Want to know more about the free school meals then do check out the Department for Education  and the Children’s Food Trust.

To help publicise this the Department of Education are asking people to share their #SchoolMealMemories.  I have to admit that I have pretty decent school meal memories and the boys school dinners are ace.



The benefits of eating school dinners

  1. Eating a balanced meal at lunchtime is important for concentration.   Hungry children can not concentrate
  2. Peer pressure – My boys will often try a new food if they see their friends eat it.  This is a great way to introduce new foods.
  3. The UK now has the highest rate of obesity in Europe with one in three children overweight or obese by Year 6.  School lunches are a nutritionally balanced meal.
  4. School lunches provide the opportunity for pupils to sit down and enjoy their meal whilst developing social skills that will be very important later in life.
  5. The boys school dinners provide three of their five a day
  6. Research by the Children’s Food Trust shows that school meals are now consistently more nutritious than packed lunches, giving the children who eat them a better foundation for good health.
  7. A Children’s Food Trust study has shown that children in primary schools are 3 times more likely to concentrate in the classroom following improvements to the food and dining room 
  8. I believe that by eating a warm school lunch and being taught about making healthy food choices that we are giving our children a solid foundation in food and equipping them with the skills for years to come.
  9. Table manners and cutlery skills come from everyday use and seeing how other people eat.  You would be surprised at just how many children can not use a knife and fork or talk with their mouth full. For some children lunchtime will be the only time they eat at a table or in company.
  10. Don’t just take my word for it, this survey on why Teachers think school meals are important is eye opening.

Just to show that I am not totally against school lunches, Cass my dear friend from Diary of a Frugal Family gives her kids pack lunches and this is her post on them.

THe Mad House

19 thoughts on “The benefits for your child from eating school meals

  • Pinkoddy

    I am going to let my boys have them because they are free – well we are going to give them a try anyway. When my 2nd born son used to have them everyday he would tell me he had pasta. Now it’s jacket potatoes. Doesn’t sound very balanced to me. Then there’s the issue of a pudding every lunch time. Guess it helps that I am not (or hope I’m not) in the target parents. In that we do, and can, provide a healthy balanced lunch. But yes I am hopeful that my youngest will try different foods when he sees his peers eating them. If nothing else my year 2 will love having an extra roast dinner every week as he loves them.

  • The Mummy Diary

    My son has had packed lunches for three days and school dinners for two days a week and for us this has worked well, I enjoy making packed lunches and he enjoys eating them. We sit down in the evening and have a hot meal as a family and for me having two huge hot meals a day would be a struggle so we will be continuing with packed lunches as we are at the moment. School dinners are a better option for the days I work as it means I don’t have to worry about him just having sandwiches in the evening when I am back late. I would however like to sample one of the school dinners, it would make me more inclined to let him have them more often, but as it stands a lot of the time I know he doesn’t eat what is on offer, and we have had a few occasions recently where it has been Pizza two days running! This isn’t because he doesn’t eat a diverse range of food as he loves everything at home. But at least with a packed lunch I know how much and what he has eaten. I do agree with you however for some families it will be a welcome opportunity to not worry about their children getting a healthy and filling lunch and for that I think it is a good idea.

  • Globalmouse

    This is a great post. We are big fans of school lunches but we also like mixing it up with packed lunches. I think some variety is a good thing, at least it works for our family.

  • Sylvia @ Happiness is homemade

    My brother have school meals too, everyone from his class use it so I think it’s a great idea to integrate, eat balanced food and try new things as you mentioned before it’s easier to introduce new food when other kids try it.

  • Erica Price

    My son is too old to get the free meals (by one year – how gutted am I!). I make packed lunches to save money really and they are pretty good: a cheese, tuna or chicken/turkey sandwich with homemade bread, a pot of cucumber/pepper, tomato and fruit for pudding. We’ll be doing a few weeks of school meals though soon when our kitchen is being done and I think that will be good as it teaches other things like social eating, etc.

  • Polly

    I think this is a great idea, mine don’t go to school, but I’d opt for school lunches if they did. IT’s great especailly for those from poorer families, to ensure they all get a decent meal

  • Cass@frugalfamily

    Great post Jen – I think that’s a great list although I do think lots of those can also be achieved with packed lunches although it definitely takes more effort. Beth is looking forward to a mix of school dinners and packed lunches this year so that should be interesting shouldn’t it x x

  • stacey kirkbride

    As a family with 3 children on a low budget I am so glad we will be getting our 4 years old school dinners paid for us when he starts school next month. We pay for our 8 year olds school meals ourselves and I prefer knowing my son is getting a good hot meal rather than him picking at the food in his lunch box and leaving most of the contents.

  • Laura

    I think the introduction of free school meals for all children under a certain age is a great idea. My husband and I will be encouraging our daughter to do this because we’re happy with what her school provides.

  • Rachel

    Great post and I agree with the importance of school dinners, though I don’t have children, I know that for some, this is the only hot meal a day some get xx

  • julie

    I have to be honest, I detested school dinners, my dad encouraged me to have them as we got them free but I have always been such a fussy eater I rarely liked most of the food on offer. I remember literally being forced to eat mash, something I’ve never been able to eat without heaving, I explained this (I was probably around 8-9) and was forced to eat it, even after I was heaving! So I’m afraid theres no good memories from me! I have no doubt that most dinner ladies wouldn’t do this nowadays though!

  • Emma TheMiniMesAndMe

    My two are too old for the free meals but the menu is fairly good at their school and I’m happy to pay if there is something on it that appeals. My daughter quite often has a jacket potato during the colder months as they are her fav and it warms her up a bit. I do however prefer to send them with a packed lunch so I know exactly how much they have eaten. We also enjoy a hot meal in the eve as a family too. x

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