Parents of school age children want greater influence over the meals their children have at school lunchtimes, as well as the introduction of healthier choices and more British food, according to a new YouGov report.
The research shows that almost four in ten (39%) parents whose children are in primary or secondary education, would like to know what their child has chosen to eat if they have had a school dinner. A third (35%) would like to try the meals that the school offers in order to be more informed about what their children are eating every day, and 30% would like direct influence on what is served.
One in five (20%) would like to take the choice out of the child or school’s control, and decide in advance what their child will have to eat. However, there is a question of how this can be achieved as over a quarter (27%) of parents say they have no way of communicating with their child’s school on this issue. This rises to six in ten among those who are currently dissatisfied with the current school meals system at their child’s school.
Parents would like to see a number of initiatives introduced, for example over eight in ten (84%) would like school lunches to contribute to a child’s ‘five-a-day’. Three in five (60%) want healthier options to be available, 43% would like to see an emphasis on local products, and 35% said the same concerning British foods. A quarter (27%) placed importance on fair trade products.
One area of concern is the ubiquity of fast food and the potential for that industry to dominate school meals catering. Just under half (48%) of parents say their foremost concern would be seeing fast food brands in schools. In total, 52% are also concerned that big fast food companies will try to take over school meal provision, with the problem being the perceived emphasis on profit, not providing nutritional meals.
James McCoy, research director at YouGov, said: “The report shows that schools should work with parents to create a school meals programme with a focus on healthy and locally-sourced products. The trouble is, many of the parents we surveyed do not feel that there are existing channels for them to communicate with school authorities on this issue, and so the first order of business must be opening the lines of communication.”