Should School Packed Lunches be Banned?

By Jocelyn Levy | 2nd November 2020 | 8 min read

A decent hot meal that sticks to school food standards is more often than not going to deliver more nutritional value to children than cold school packed lunches. Especially if packed lunches are filled with crisps, chocolate and snacks which is all too often the case. If we know school food is the healthier option, should packed lunches be banned outright?

Packed Lunches not a right in Italy?

In Italy, the supreme court has not gone as far as to ban school packed lunches, but it has upheld schools’ rights to implement a no packed lunch policy. The decision was made after a group of parents from Turin had previously won a court case in a lower court that rewarded them the right to give their children school packed lunches.

Presumably the school wants to create a unified catering environment and ensure children are fed a healthy and varied diet each day. However, parents complained about high prices and one mother said that complaints about the school’s food from her daughter were common. She said:

“My older daughter was not happy because the quality of the food didn’t justify the cost, and also because of the hygiene issues with the canteen.”

School catering the best option

In Finland all school lunches are free and in France they are heavily subsidised. While here in England we offer Free School Meals to all infants and then those who meet certain benefit requirements. But all who are entitled to free school meals are also entitled to bring in school packed lunches. In very few cases do schools ban them outright here in the UK. However, sometimes we do hear stories of certain unhealthy items being banned and returned at the end of the day.

Giving parents the option seems like the sensible approach, even if we believe school dinners are the healthier choice. Banning school packed lunches altogether is a bit extreme. Some parents give their children healthy packed lunches that consist of foods they know their child will eat.

The right approach for schools is to improve the pupils’ experience of the school canteen, and to allow parents to be a part of their children’s meal selection. A cashless catering system can help by providing the students with an online account where their parents can pre-order school meals weeks in advance.

A cashless catering solution can be a great way for schools to increase the number of students eating healthy meals at the school canteen. Such a system reduces queues, giving students more time to either sit and eat lunch together, or spend more time socialising out on the playground.

Find out how the implementation of a cashless catering solution can have a positive impact on the uptake of school meals.

Related links & news stories

BBC: Packed lunches not a right in Italian schools, court rules