Food for thought about school and academy dinners in North Lincolnshire
TEACHERS have stressed the importance of educating young people about healthy eating, as many secondary schools have no set guidelines to follow.
Academies and free schools in England are not bound by government regulations on school food.
And with 10 of the 13 secondary schools in North Lincolnshire now academies, school meals have become a talking point among staff.
Joan Barnes, principal at the St Lawrence Academy in Scunthorpe, said: "We have always followed national expectations with balanced nutritious meals.
"We always try to serve as wide a range of food as possible, especially since 41 per cent of our students are from ethnic minorities.
"We make sure we cater for all tastes and requirements.
"It is crucially important to educate children about healthy eating and diet.
"We do this by having specific science, PE and technology lessons aimed at improving a young person's knowledge of a healthy lifestyle.
"If you only serve healthy meals, the students might not understand why and could make bad decisions outside of school.
"They need that education to help them make informed choices.
"A healthy lifestyle also helps students be more engaged in lessons and we stress the importance of breakfast to all of them."
Colin Saywell, head teacher at Baysgarth School in Barton- Upon-Humber, said: "You must self- regulate if you are not bound by the Government and maintain common sense.
"If that is not happening, then it is something that should be addressed.
"On a wider scale, quality of food in school canteens has seen a big improvement.
"When you compare things now to what they were like eight years ago, lots of teenagers are far more concerned about healthy eating and junk food.
"Learning more about a balanced diet is essential.
"If youngsters understand it then there is no need for regulations because they can make their own well-informed choices."
Mr Saywell said national dishes from around the world were on sale on High Streets and said schools should broaden their lunchtime choices.
He said: "Although our school is bound by Government regulations, we would like to explore more freedom with what we serve."
Linda Hewlett-Parker, principal of Sir John Nelthorpe School in Brigg, feels healthy eating is being adopted at an even earlier age.
She said: "I think it is a combination of schools acting responsibly and young people making the right choices.
"I do, however, think more children are coming from primary school eating traditionally healthy meals.
"At school, the meals are good value and high quality, which helps promote healthy eating.
"Just because an academy has freedom to serve whatever food it likes, it does not mean it will necessarily do that."