Parents are being told to stop giving kids jam sandwiches and have been instead offered school lessons in how to prepare healthy lunches.
A hundred primary and secondary schools across the UK are being offered workshops that will teach parents in the art of a green, veg-focused meal in a scheme led by charity School Food Matters.
It comes after a study found that homemade dinners “rarely meet school food standards” and that they were mostly filled with unhealthy snacks.
In fact, researchers at the University of Leads found that just one in 60 meals given to children is healthy.
Sandwiches tended to be made from white bread rather than brown, and were filled with sugary fillings including jam and Nutella.
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Ham was the most popular filling, The Times reports.
And whilst we’ve all indulged in an easy chocolate spread sandwich – or better yet, jam and crisps – those types of fillings are high in sugar.
Speaking of crisps, more than half of packed lunches contained a savory packet, while a third featured a chocolate biscuit.
Researchers also discovered that only a fifth of lunchboxes contained any veggies, and about half some fruit; while only 1.6 per cent were deemed to be nutritious enough.
Cooked school lunches need to meet a list of mandatory standards, as set out in 2015.
This relates to how many vegetables they include and whether they contain protein and dairy, alongside restrictions on sugary snacks and drinks.
There is no such code for parents to follow when it comes to packed lunches made at home.
More than 100 schools will be enrolled in a scheme led by School Food Matters.
Over the next five years, they will offer a “menu of support” to boost children’s diets, including workshops for parents on making good packed lunches.
Stephanie Slater, founder and chief executive of the School Food Matters, said: “The Leeds study has shown that packed lunches rarely meet the school food standards and in our work in schools we regularly see lunchboxes filled with crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks.
“We’re supporting schools to put together a packed lunch policy and workshops for parents so they know what to include in their child’s lunchbox.”
She said that having a clear policy in place meant school staff are not forced to effectively become ‘packed lunch police’ which she said “creates tensions” between schools and families.
Stephanie said: “But the very best way to ensure that children get the variety and the nutrition they need to thrive is to encourage them to eat a hot school meal.”
Professor Jason Halford of the University of Leeds, president of the European Association for the Study of Obesity, said: “Promoting more fruit and veg intake at school is difficult if this is not the diet at home.
“Helping families to pack more healthy lunches is obviously something that should be supported but we need to understand the barriers families face doing this.”
The study was highlighted in a World Health Organization report on obesity and published in the journal BMJ Open, which has monitored packed lunches since 2006.
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