Friday, 20 April 2012

School food came under

brief discussion recently. Someone mentioned that England was likely to do away with free school lunches for children who had been deemed in need of them. I experienced school lunches a number of times while I was there. They were not too bad.
State schools in Australia do not provide lunch for their pupils. Children bring their lunch from home or they buy it.
We almost always took ours from home. My mother would supply us with a sandwich - usually Vegemite - and two biscuits and a piece of fruit. We drank water.  Naturally we eyed off the lunch buyers enviously, a hot pasty on a cold day!
Even the lunch buyers were limited in their choice back then. It was bought from "the tuck shop" next door to the school. You could buy a pie, a pasty or a sausage roll and a "cream bun", a "Kitchener Bun", a "finger bun" or a "jam tart".  There were also sandwiches and rolls available. That was it.
Once a term we were permitted to buy our lunch - we were allowed to buy a pasty. The rest of our lunch would still come from home. It may have been largely because of the household finances but it was also because my mother strongly disapproved of buying lunch when a better lunch could be provided from home.
Of course we did not see it that way!
Nobody checked on what children ate back then just that it had been eaten and even that stopped after you left "the infants". I remember jam sandwiches being common. One child always brought banana sandwiches. The bread was white. Children ate cake and biscuits and most of us had a piece of fruit. Our mothers would peel the oranges but not the mandarins. Apple cores and fruit peel were wrapped in the waxed paper that had held the sandwich. A few children had "drink bottles" and brought cordial from home. The rest of us drank water - and the city's water supply was particularly vile back then. Rainwater was regarded as a treat. It tasted good.
School "canteens", run by mothers, came into existence after we left for the bush. Nobody bought their lunch in the bush. There was no way to buy it. The kids ate mutton or kangaroo sandwiches and endless slices of sultana cake - the staple cake made for the shearers. There was not too much fruit around but sometimes there would be quandong (wild peach) pie or "jubilee" cake - a bit like brack or bara brith.
School absenteeism in the bush was low so the diet cannot have been that bad. There were no fat children.
We were all, even me, too active for that.
Now schools are struggling to run canteens because mothers are now expected to go to work. What is sold there has changed dramatically. The canteen is probably a cleaner and healthier place than it was but they are not allowed to sell foods which have been deemed "unhealthy".
I have seen the lunch list for the local school. Pies, pasties and sausage rolls are not permitted. There are no buns or cake. You can still buy sandwiches and rolls - but only with fillings which are deemed "healthy". It's a dull list. The food is not likely to appeal to children but they are also forbidden to bring things like potato crisps and chocolate bars from home. It is all supposed to be about healthy eating.
My observation of the eating habits of the young suggests that they merely tolerate this and eat what they consider to be "real" food after school is over.

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