As if figuring out what on earth to put in the kids' packed lunches wasn't tricky enough, a school in Essex has banned children from bringing Scotch eggs to school in their lunch boxes. Apparently teachers confiscated Scotch eggs from lunch boxes on the basis that they didn't go with the school's healthy eating policy. The offending articles were removed from lunch boxes and replaced at the end of the day.
The Telegraph reports:
"The school has taken the unusual step of asking teachers to look through pupils' lunch boxes and remove items that are deemed inappropriate. Along with Peperami sausages, scotch eggs are being confiscating until the end of the day, at which point the teacher replaces the item, adding an explanatory note for parents."
But according to the Daily Mail, a number of parents complained about teachers confiscating items deemed unhealthy from the children's lunch boxes. The paper reports:
"But outraged parents say it is unfair as the school’s menu offers unhealthy food including high sugar desserts like flapjacks, cookies and mousse. About ten parents confronted the school’s assistant head teacher to demand to know why their children had food removed from their lunchbox."
The Playpennies team has been been debating this issue - over healthy lunches, naturally - and most of us reckon it's not a teacher's place to determine what a child eats for lunch at school. I think I'd be pretty disgruntled if I gave my child something for lunch which they were told not to eat by a teacher.
Aside from the fact that the child presumably ended up having a rather light lunch that day, I imagine it's fairly embarrassing to be the kid whose lunch got confiscated. And if you take into account the point made by the parents who complained - that other kids were eating sugary foods from the school canteen on the day in question - then the whole situation looks like a pretty silly waste of teachers' time, in my opinion. It just makes no sense, if sweet treats are served as part of school dinners, that kids who bring their own less-than-healthy items in for lunch are treated differently.
I've got no problem with schools adopting healthy eating policies, but I think kids who bring unhealthy items to school in their lunch boxes should be allowed to eat them as a one-off, with a note going home asking the parents not to send the same item in again.
That said, I also think that healthy eating policies can backfire. My kids go to a school with a strict healthy eating policy in place - they're allowed one sweet treat in their lunch box such as a chocolate biscuit, but no drinks except water and no crisps or sugary sandwich fillings like chocolate spread or jam. But I think the school's rigorous approach to healthy eating is part of the reason why my kids are junk food maniacs - they see all the stuff they're not allowed to have for lunch as forbidden fruit (er, except not fruit) and that just makes them crave it all the more.
My friend Lianne agrees:
"I think a healthy eating policy in school just makes the 'banned' junk food seem contraband and exciting," she says. "It doesn't actually teach kids control or balance, or how to make good food choices. Banning certain foods at lunch just ties their hands, which they'll untie themselves the minute they're old enough to have food freedom."
The number of high school kids that I see drinking fizzy drinks or even high caffeine drinks on the way to school in the morning is surely testament to that.
And I've also been *that* parent who sends an unhealthy item to school in the kids' lunch boxes now and again because we've run out of healthy packed lunch items and I've completely forgotten to restock. No-one's going to argue that a Scotch egg or a peperami is a health food, but as a parent it's not easy sending in healthy, nutritious foods week after week (not to mention taking into account the way kids love something one minute and beg never to have to suffer it again the next...) without ever resorting to something like a Scotch egg or a peperami. Does that really justify singling out a child and confiscating their food? I don't think so.
Above all, I just don't think it's a teacher's place to veto what a parent provides for a child's lunch. I don't tell the teachers how to do their job (or at least I try very hard to resist the urge to do so when it strikes) so why should a teacher take it upon his or herself to police the parents' packed lunch efforts? In my book, this is overstepping the mark.
But enough about me. What's your view on this story? Has your child ever had an item of food confiscated from their lunch box? We'd love to hear your comments over on our Facebook page, or you can vote in our poll, below.