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WHAT’S CHEAPER: SCHOOL MEALS OR PACKED LUNCHES? 2020 EDITION

In July 2018 we did an experiment to see whether you can:

MAKE UP FIVE DAYS WORTH OF VARIED, WELL BALANCED AND NUTRITIOUS PACKED LUNCHES USING GUIDANCE PROVIDED ON THE SCHOOL FOOD PLAN FOR THE AVERAGE COST OF A SCHOOL MEAL – £2 PER DAY

(See HERE). It received a lot of attention at the time and is still shared today.


This time around… 

WELL, it’s 2020, the world has come close to imploding, many parents are more cash-strapped than ever and in more schools than I can bear to think about, school meals aren’t even an option as packed lunches are deemed a ‘more covid safe option’ (but this is a discussion for another day).  

So, with supermarkets being very mindful of all of this, Boris telling us he cares about obesity again, and the 2016 sugar levy still in the back of our minds – can it be done this time around?

A few things to note since 2018 – worth clarifying before we begin.

  1. THE PREVIOUS CONCLUSION: 
    The original study from 2018 (HERE) concluded that the cheapest you can create a ‘healthy’ lunchbox for was approx. £14.50 (£4.50 a week more than school lunches at the time)
  2. COST: The average cost of a school meal in 2020 is approx. £2.20 (which is subject to much debate) whereas the average SPEND of a packed lunch is around £1.86 (but still only 1.6% of packed lunches are deemed ‘nutritious’).
  3. FOOD STANDARDS: The School Food Plan still exist, and are still used – but are (apparently) going through consultation at some point… we’ve been promised this consultation since 2017 so who knows when that will happen… alas, it’s all we currently have – so it will be what we use to write these menus.

HOW THIS IS GOING TO WORK?

For fairness, I’ll keep methods and rules of the study pretty much the same with a few changes:

  1. I’ll write a ONE-week menu based on the School Food Plan recommendations and based on MAX portions sizes recommended for a pupil halfway through primary school
  2. Prices will be worked out per day, based on the quantity of the food item used for lunches – buying each food from each supermarket as if I were buying enough for three weeks’ worth, to prevent a ‘weight and quantity’ bias
  3. This time, although I’ll still be going to the UK’S leading supermarkets outlined HERE I’m going to choose FOUR instead of three. They are: 
    Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, and Aldi. 
  4. I will divide the costs for the amount used (i.e. I can’t buy one slice of bread, so I’ll divide the loaf into the amount used)
  5. I will purchase mid-range brands instead of opting for high end items, or the cheapest items.
  6. The menu this time as been created to attempt to be the cheapest it can (whilst not going super low budget (i.e. I got a lot of flak for having beef on the menu last time. This time around I won’t have expensive foods on there for fairness)

[All prices correct as of October 2020.]

THE MENU

Again, based on the school food plan, I’ve written a ONE WEEK menu (disregarding the three week cycle that caterers refer too for the sake of simplicity) making references to all required food groups and portions per day, whilst considering the NEW ADDITION of sugar being kept as low as possible (no more than 5.7g per day as recommended HERE).SIMPLE. Five days, hitting food group requirements as best as I can, without being too complex, whilst offering variety and keeping costs low.

As you can see, I’ve made it as varied as I possibly can, considering non-meat eaters and even opting for a dairy free day on Tuesday (i.e. – it’s optional to have these items as part of lunch). 

Obviously, this could be more creative, and it should really include a portion of oily fish, but that would rocket costs even further and I wanted to be fair.


THE RESULTS

As a recap, last time around (October 2018):

Aldi was the cheapest at: £14.50

Sainsbury’s was the most expensive at: £16.50

(This time as the average cost of school meals is slightly higher – we’ll be working out menus at £2.20 per day vs £2).

So, can it be done, this time around?

NOPE.

Once again, school meals are clearly cheaper. 

Aldi, despite being the cheapest again were still nearly £4 more expensive than 2018, whilst, Sainsburys came out at £22 per WEEK to provide a well-balanced menu, which aligns with the standards that schools have to adhere to.

That’s roughly £4.40 a day – TWICE the cost of a nutritious school meal that is currently free for millions of children across the country. 


Summary

This once again took far too much time to do, and as I was writing and then shopping for the ‘healthiest version of a packed lunch’ based on the standards I thought:

‘Why would ANY PARENT do this when you can have school meals for less (often for free) at school?’

SO PLEASE trust me when you read this:

I have seen hundreds of thousands of school meals being served in primary schools across the UK, I’ve also seen hundreds of thousands of packed lunches in these same schools and 90% of the time, the quality of food served to our children in this country for £2.20 per day (if not free) is outstanding. Not just good – It’s outstanding.

Yet, on average only 60% of children across the country who are eligible for free school meals takes them up.

If that is you.

PLEASE re-consider.

I PROMISE YOU, at School Health UK we are doing our bit.

NOBODY cares more about school lunchtimes than us and we will NEVER let the standards of school meals slip in any school we ever step into.

Paul 

Please contact hello@schoolhealthuk.co.uk for more. 

FURTHER READING/ ARTICLES USED:

https://www.thegrocer.co.uk/category-reports/the-covid-school-lunch-kids-lunches-category-report-2020/646022.article

Posted inLunchbox

NEW: BETA PROGRAMME- The Safer Lunchtimes Mark – PLAYGROUND ZONING

Struggling to zone your playground effectively?


Are your lunch team a little disorganised?


Are first aid or behaviour incidents higher than you think they should be during your lunchtime?


Are you spending too much time sorting issues unresolved at lunchtimes?


 We can fix all of that in TWO steps with our Safer Lunchtimes Playground Zoning Programme

SEE MORE HERE

Posted inHealth

INCREASING SCHOOL MEALS TAKE UP IS EASY. You’re just not very good at it.

The Better Lunchtimes mark in 2018 successfully turned over the increase and improved take up of over 35,000 school meals a day! 👩🏻‍🍳 👨🏻‍🍳

Schools reported, being part of the BLM, that take up increased by up to 80% [lowest – highest] in just six months. With an average take up (Jan-Dec 2018) in schools I worked in increasing by 36% over a similar time period – potentially increasing school meals revenue, just from our intervention alone, by £24-30K per school over a school year! 😱

Heads reported to us that incidents at lunchtime inside and out (impacting the overall experience for pupils) reduced by up to 60% (four weeks pre and post intervention). 🏥

And finally, pupils perception of the overall experience increased in positivity by up to 60% (impacting pupils choices of whether to consume a school meal or packed lunch). 🌮 🌯 🥗

We know that the choice of either a packed lunch or a school meals is completely down to children and their choices rather than parents, as concluded in this study by the University of Leeds last year. Which demonstrated:

Children emerged as active decision makers exerting substantial power particularly in the initial decision to have a packed lunch, and then in influencing the lunch’s contents.  

 Despite this, both schools and catering providers are completely guilty of spending tireless resource and funding editing and adjusting the menus whilst the atmosphere of the lunch experience remains untouched. Quite simply, if I can eat a packed lunch in two minutes and then go outside whilst you’re still queuing to get your Roast Dinner on a Wednesday – I’m having a packed lunch. 🤷‍♀️

Why are you not seeing this? 🤦‍♂️

If you’d like School Health UK to prove our concept in one of your schools – please send me a message. We’ve improved the take up in EACH ONE OF OUR SCHOOLS since December 2017 and will continue to do so. 

A Michelin stared chef wouldn’t allow his food to be served out of an unclean diner – so why are you any different? 👩‍🍳 👨‍🍳

Posted inSchools

Teachers 👩‍🏫 👨‍🏫- please look after yourselves. 🤞

I was a teacher once, I left because I couldn’t hack it. Honestly. My passion wasn’t there and I could not handle the ‘results. results. results’ nature of it all. 😔

“Stop teaching fish to climb trees” 

CLIMBING FISH 🐟 

I sit with hundreds of Head teachers each year, who are mostly on the verge of breaking point, emotionally drained with the pressures put on them to disregard each individual child’s need in place of a SATS paper, that (and I quote from one of the most successful head teachers in the country): ‘Is too difficult for an adult with a doctorate, let alone a 10 year old’. 

Last night, my girlfriend and I had a night out with close friends of ours – both in education, one’s a head teacher, the other a teacher. My other half, not in education, asked:

‘what is actually it like having six weeks off?’ 

She was surprised to hear the response being described as:

‘It’s like waiting for a delayed tube train; right now, it’s calm and you’ve got some time to yourself, but in the back of your mind you know that at any moment it’s going to come at you, packed, hot, rushed and stressful’.

With that thought in mind. I figured, I’d offer some advice, what little advice I can offer, from education, experience and general life that I hope just one person will take something from. 🐣 🐥 

Here are three ‘QUICK TIPS’ I hope will, at the very least, allow you to think about yourself this term. 

I’ve got your back. You are great. 👊 

You are important 👸🏽 🤴🏽 

As a teacher, you spend every day, from start to finish, putting the needs of students first. Each day brings something new; you are challenged, pulled in different directions and are expected to just get on with it, all whilst taking the brunt of misplaced anger from the student who is having a tough time at home. 🏚 

You are a human being who has fears and worries of their own. You may also be a parent or a carer. But, regardless of who you really are, you are just ‘Miss’ or ‘Sir’, to your students.

I am convinced that no one should care for the wellbeing of others at the expense of their own. Having worked with teachers in both primary and secondary schools, I know how hard it is to find time for yourself amidst the planning, marking and other commitments. But, I’ve also seen how taking small steps to improve wellbeing can help teachers avoid that feeling of being completely weighed down by work. 🏋🏾‍♀️ 

This term, try some of these tips to make sure you start out on the right foot:

 Be active 🤸‍♂️  🤼‍♀️ 🤾🏿‍♂️ 🏌️‍♀️

Physical activity is proven to reduce stress. To a lot of us, exercise may seem time-consuming – something you’d obviously want to avoid doing in term-time. But exercise doesn’t always mean spending hours on a treadmill after a busy day. Instead, you could do some gardening, or cycle to work. On a lot of days, this may be difficult to fit in, but if you can make time for a small amount of activity even once or twice a week, you’ll still feel the benefits.

Be kind to yourself  🧘‍♀️ 🚣‍♂️ 

Allow yourself a little “me time” before bed to read a book or take a bath. It may seem like this won’t make a difference to the pressure you feel, but making sure you relax and wind down in the evening is proven to protect your heart, boost memory, help you make better decisions and lower the risk of depression!

It’s easy to get caught up in the stresses and worries of work. So, if you’re struggling to switch off, mindfulness can be a useful tool. These techniques can help you to focus on the present, rather than taking the stresses of school home with you. 

Continue to connect 📲 👭 

To be able to function well, we need to feel close to and valued by others. Sometimes you might feel too busy to socialise, but it is important that you don’t neglect the relationships you nurtured during the school holidays. 

When you are back at work, make sure you still spend time with family or friends. This doesn’t have to mean ignoring your planning for a whole weekend – it could be as simple as watching a half-hour TV show with your family once a week, or meeting a friend for coffee one morning. 📺 

Implementing these changes may seem impossible on top of your mountains of marking. But once you’ve put them into practice, it will be easier to make regular time for them, and looking after yourself will begin to feel like the priority it is! 🤗

Posted inParents