Author and food poverty campaigner Kathleen Kerridge has called for school meals to be made compulsory and for the say-so of parents to be “taken out of the equation”.
In a debate about children’s health at the Vegetable Summit at London’s City Hall, Kerridge expressed the “controversial” opinion that school dinners should be rolled out across the board.
“I don’t think the responsibility for feeding a child at school should ever be given to the parents because if one child sees another eating a cake and drinking a can of coke they will want it,” she said.
“The healthiest this country has ever been was during World War II when we were all on rationing. The government know what to do – they have their nutritionists, they have a lot of information that us, as parents, don’t always have. As parents we don’t always have that education.”
The Guardian journalist, who is one of many UK mothers with the difficult task of feeding her young family on a shoestring budget, advocates a similar programme to the one adopted by schools in Amsterdam.
In April this year the city introduced a ban on fruit juice and birthday feasts at schools with children restricted to either water or milk.
“If someone is bringing in a cake once or twice a week, your child is getting a lot of sugar so have the cakes at home,” Kerridge said.
“If you really want your child to have a packet of crisps every day, feed them to them at home but at school give them the opportunity to have that healthy food.
“From a low-income perspective, it would be amazing if my children could get free school meals so they would get a balanced nutritional meal and I wouldn’t have to worry.”