Lunch dilemma

More expensive school meals could reduce demand by parents who prefer to spend the money on packed lunches, says Kevin McKay, chairman of the Local Authority Caterers Association [LACA].

More expensive school meals could reduce demand by parents who prefer to spend the money on packed lunches, says Kevin McKay, chairman of the Local Authority Caterers Association [LACA] .

He was commenting on the Department of Education and Sciences's new initiative of 'nutrient profiling' of school lunches which requires calculation of the nutrient value of each ingredient of dishes on the menu to see how they match up to supplying the recommended daily allowances of products such as proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. It will also lead to more expensive lunches, he claims and the complicated task is an unfair burden on his members who only account for 18 to 19 per cent of the diet of children, a percentage he bases on 190 school days a year and 40 per cent of children buying school lunches.

"There is no account of what parents buy their children out of school or what they put in the packed lunches," he says.

Also, he believes school caterers will find that some food manufacturers are unable to give information needed for the calculations.

Traditionally guidance given to schools on what to serve has been based on food groups, for example stating that meat should be given at least three times a week. Nutrient profiling may lead to healthy individual food ingredients being recommended but not necessarily composite meals which are attractive to children who will give up having lunch at school.

LACA is funded by subscription by members in return offering support and development, contacts for supplies,networking and recognising excellence with its annual competition to find the 'School Chef of the Year.'

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