Jamie’s Return To School Dinners

Jamie\'s School DinnersYou’ll very rarely see me write a post about a TV cooking program. They’re ok to watch, entertaining and sometimes informative, but they don’t generally warrant time spent writing an article about.

This program (recently shown on Channel 4 in the UK) however was different. This program was the one-off sequel to a previous series, one which focused on childrens’ food and in particular the current poor standards of dinners served within Britain’s schools. The moral message was hard and significant – if the saying “you are what you eat” is to be believed, then our children are developing into little more then artificial flavours and colourings, with an unhealthy dose of fat and salt thrown in for good measure.

I felt compelled to comment on this program for a couple of reasons. Reason one, a good deal of the program was filmed in my home county (region) of Lincolnshire. The messages contained within (and examples thereof), coupled with the half hearted effort of the Council to be involved directly affect my life, locally. I don’t have children, but when I do, I’ll be damned if I’m sending them to school to eat food which will shorten their lives.

Basic Facts

Let’s look first at some basics. It’s a proven fact that “5 a day” fruit and vegetables reduce the chance of illness. It’s also a fact that as a cost cutting measure school canteens can’t provide meals provided from scratch, and instead resort to pre-prepared meals (and constituent ingredients). It’s part and parcel of business that these pre-prepared meals are made cheaply, and cutting costs means extending shelf-life. They do this by filling the food with additives and preservatives.

Packed lunches aren’t much better. Parent’s follow the same trend, even if doing so with the best of intentions in mind. They provide their children with a “cheap” dinner, consisting of chocolate, crisps, and fizzy drinks. They probably don’t realize that fresh fruit and natural ingredients will increase their child’s concentration and chance of doing well in school, and probably don’t realize that their child will be noticeably healthier for it.

Partial Success

Jamie’s original series was a success, raising almost 300m from the government to aid schools in preparing fresh meals from scratch. All is not good however, as recent attitudes show many parents resented this “infringement” on their rights to provide their children with what they see as the best food.

The program was both inspiring and saddening; the attitude of all the parents and local business owners gather by Lincoln Castle was positive. Local pubs prepared food for dinners, children were on board and excited, and so were parents. Tony Blair even promised further funding over a longer period from the government.

Soon it became apparent however that not everyone is on board. After the initial burst of activity, local pubs began pulling out of the scheme. National news reported that 2 mothers had been caught selling junk food to children at the school gates. To make it worse, public debates on the subject showed that many parents really do feel their rights are being infringed by this matter, and want to continue allowing kids to eat “what they want”.

Still More To Do!

There’s still more to do guys. Whether you’re a parent, chef, foodblogger, or just somebody who likes good food, please do your bit. Let’s work together to push real food, made with real ingredients. Keep food simple and uncomplicated – allow people to see the parts that make up the food, and allow people to realize that food is made and not bought.