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School Dinners

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School Dinners

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School Dinners

Now we’re not suggesting that school catering is a phenomenon unique to England. It is our clear understanding that other countries too offer to nourish their little ones in the midday interval between lessons. Only in England, though, has its history been so fraught with controversy.

Back in the day, school dinner (as children’s lunches have always been known) represented an attempt by local education authorities to get important protein and vitamins into the growing pupils. Vegetables boiled to extinction and milk puddings such as tapioca, which nobody would otherwise have eaten voluntarily, were duly crammed into them. Then the era of franchising meant that catering companies could pretty much serve up what the children wanted, which turned out to be burgers, pizzas and various species of reconstituted poultry in breadcrumbs. Then came Jamie Oliver.

As the children now nibble gingerly on tagliatelle with pesto or stir-fried crunchy Brussels sprouts, a revolution is quietly under way. There is no need for school dinners to be ‘minging’, as Jamie puts it. They ought to be ‘fantastically yummy’. But what do you remember best?


Photo: Anna Rubinstein, aged 6

NOMINATION 670 OF 1160

Your comments

Which English person doesn't know a rhyme about school dinners? "School dinners, school dinners concrete chips...." School dinners, the battleground of politicians and celebrity chefs alike and the biggest moan of all English school children.

Amanda Palmer


Ooh school dinners in the early 60s - heaven. Spotted dick, lumpy custard, frogspawn (tapioca), jam sponge pudding, rice pudding, bread pudding, chocolate sauce all frothy and whisked up, lumpy gravy, meat and 2 veg. Basic pub fare in England today. It meant that as a kid I got one square meal a day, although our school head claimed they were only a snack and should not replace our main meal at night! I was heartbroken when the price went up and I had to take marmalade sandwiches to school every day instead as my parents couldn't afford to pay the new cost.
Rosemary Ralph


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I nominate the red pillar box.

Donna Spencer

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