A recent survey suggests that 95% of parents of the children taking up infant free school meals are recognising the benefits.
In the first blog in this series, I talked about getting the dining room right. But lots of schools have already adopted some of the best practice principles I proposed and uptake still remains very low. Consequently many pupils aren’t benefiting from the policy.
This second blog looks at parent engagement and what schools can do to improve uptake.
Parent attitudes to school food
|The problem||The solution|
|Clearly the UIFSM policy won’t work at all if children opt for a packed lunch.
Why some parents opt for packed lunches
|Make UIFSM compulsory
This sounds really radical but the solution to making sure UIFSM becomes a value for money policy is to make it compulsory at least for a term.Schools I have spoken to that have introduced this policy in Herts, West Sussex and Kent all say it has been successful. Average uptake is about 95%.
So why didn’t parents complain in the same way they often do when banning chocolate from packed lunches?
Parent attitudes to a compulsory UIFSM policy
A recent survey commissioned by the School Food Plan and carried out by Optimum Research, suggests that 95% of parents of the children taking up infant free school meals are recognising the benefits. Almost one quarter (23%) say the main benefit to their child is the greater variety of food they will now eat. The same proportion says they most value their child eating a proper meal at lunchtime whilst almost one fifth (19%) say their child has enjoyed trying new foods. The opportunity to eat together and socialise was identified as the most important aspect by 15% of parents which is why it’s so important, as I explained in my first blog, to create a restaurant style lunchtime.
Encouraging children to eat their dinner
Many other so-called fussy eaters are only fussy because their mates say the food is yucky so it puts them off. Inviting a few children to become food heroes is a good solution to this problem The food heroes are invited to try all the meals on the menu and then give feedback to everyone else. If the food heroes say: “it’s yummy” then this positive peer pressure is all it takes sometimes for children to give new foods a try.