With the new Food School Plan generating a lot of media debate, timely new research from YouGov reveals that parents of school age children want greater influence over school meals including healthier choices.
The research shows that almost four in 10 (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 10 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 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 it 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.
Michael Bennett of specialist food PR and communications consultancy Pelican said: “At a time when many schools are preparing for the introduction of the new School Food Plan this research shows a high level of parental concern over school dinners.
“Savvy foodservice brands will use these insights to develop solutions that not only meet the requirements of the Schools Food Plan but also reassure parents about the quality and nutritional value of the free meals that will be available in primary schools from September.”
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