Treeze to freeze school lunches

Posted by on May 20, 2017 in Blog, Food, Politics, Rants | 0 comments

Bad memories of school dinners/Paul Townsend/flickr

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
George Orwell

I had a lousy history teacher at school; she was always catching me out for talking during her boring lessons. I then had to stand up at my desk for the rest of the class. This made taking notes difficult, so my essays were always somewhat scrappy. By the time we got to ‘O’ level choices there was no way that History was going to be included. I spent my early adulthood regretting this, and then realised I would just have to get on with it and fill the gaps with my own study.

I certainly can’t list all the kings and queens of England in date order, but can give you (in case you ask) a pretty accurate summary of the causes of World Wars I and II, together with the history of the French and Russian revolutions. I am currently focused on the Spanish Civil War.

But there is also all the stuff that has happened in my lifetime, which I don’t need to study, because I can remember it.  And one of the things I remember was the nickname given to the first female PM of this country: ‘Thatcher, Thatcher, milk snatcher’.  The dear Leaderene, as left-wing publications liked to call her, became famous for abolishing free school milk for the over 7s in 1971. At the time she was Education Secretary. She did not become Prime Minister for another 8 years, but by then we knew what to expect.

We now have another female Prime Minister who has published her party’s manifesto for the General Election next month, and of all the things she could have done to help the ‘just about managing’, as she so fondly calls them, she has chosen to cancel the free school lunches currently provided for children during their first three years of primary school.  Instead, a free breakfast will be provided for all primary age children.

I emphasise the fact that this is Theresa May’s policy, because the entire Conservative party campaign is focused on her and her alone. Her Ministers and MPs have nothing useful to say apart from repeating the mantra, which I will not do here.

So this piece of policy is a particularly mean trick, and here are some of the reasons why:

  • If you want to get your free breakfast you have to get to school early, whereas all pupils are in school at lunchtime, so there will never be a 100% take-up of this super generous offer.
  • Many of the children who might benefit from a free breakfast come from the most chaotic families, who are hard pressed to get their children to school on time anyway. ’Great’, thinks Theresa, ‘that’s a bit more money saved’.
  • The breakfast that will be offered will probably be along the lines of a bowl of sweetened cereal with milk, thereby contributing to the childhood obesity problem, which Jamie Oliver has been quick to point out. One wonders if the sponsorship deal has already been signed with Kellogg’s.
  • For many children in areas of deprivation the free school lunch will be the only hot meal they get each day. But when you have a person whose response to the fact that nurses are using food banks is that there are ‘complex reasons’ for this, it is quite clear that empathy is not their strong point.

There are many unpleasant, unrealistic and downright despicable aspects to Theresa May’s manifesto, but this takes the biscuit, or should I say lunch?  Orwell was right; let’s keep remembering what is happening, particularly when they are such cynical examples of policy making.

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