When we lived in D.C. I packed lunches and snacks for all the kids every day for school. We do not eat processed food (as much as humanly possible), we only eat organic, and the school lunches that were provided were, frankly, gross re-heated frozen processed garbage. My kids might have purchased school lunch once in their lives before we moved here.
At the school in England, though, you are not allowed to bring a lunch. It’s just not even a thing. The school has a full kitchen and a chef and five other prep staff and the food is made from scratch on the premises every day, and every child eats the lunch provided. It’s part of the tuition and fees. And the food is freaking amazing. The picture above is an actual photo of the salad bar in the Prep school where all three boys eat each day.
Every single day I ask the kids what they had for lunch that day. I am always jealous. Here’s a sample menu from this month:
My kids eat this stuff. Gabe has a salad almost every day. They are required to take a vegetable AND to eat it. Every week they have “Roast Day” on Wednesdays, fish on Fridays, and every day there is a soup option, homemade desserts, and bread made from scratch. The pizza on Friday is made from scratch — even the dough. Everything is made on site with fresh ingredients. It is incredible. My kids have tried and learned they love new foods and have asked me to make them at home, providing me with more ideas and options at dinner time too! (Still working on a good recipe for Yorkshire pudding…or maybe a more skilled baker than I to make them.)
I also then don’t feel guilty if I occasionally have to give them PB&J sandwiches for dinner occasionally since they are eating a full hot meal with veggies and dessert every single day at lunch.
We pay a fee each term to cover the kids’ lunches which comes to a total of approximately $832 per term. Divided by about 50 school days per term and by four children, that comes out to a cost of about $4.16 per child per day. I can absolutely guarantee that I spent more per lunch for my kids when I was making them at home and packing them daily. Do you know how gladly I will pay $4 per day for my children to eat this incredible and healthy food? Contrast that with the $2.65 it cost to buy school lunch at our school in America and the difference is laughable.
In addition to obviously being healthier than the lunches provided at the schools in America, the lunch program here makes my life easier because I don’t have to pack lunches every morning. Instead of scrambling to make sandwiches or fill thermoses, I get to sit and eat breakfast and drink coffee. It is awesome.
There are a few school districts in the U.S. that I’ve been able to find online that employ an actual chef and provide the students with healthy and high-quality food like this, but they are few and far between. How much better would it be for all our kids if the food at schools were better?
Here’s one resource I found for implementing this kind of program in schools: Chef Ann Foundation.
What stops a school from doing this? I can’t imagine any parent would be against it. It’s better for the kids, it’s better for the parents (I cannot imagine going back to packing 4 lunches every morning!). It’s just BETTER.
For now I’m grateful to be sending my kids to a school where this good food is a daily reality. And when we return to the U.S., I plan to work hard to make this a reality in whatever school district we end up in. Our kids deserve it.
All photos are from the school dining hall website and used with permission.