Prue Leith is one of the most outspoken judges on the Great British Bake Off and, as it turns out, she apparently has strong feelings about packed school lunch. In a recent interview with Radio Times, Leith proposed that we "ban lunch boxes," and the suggestion really got people in a tizzy.
Her reasoning? "However well-educated a parent is, very few really give their children healthy lunch boxes because of the pressure from the kids," she tells Radio Times. Pointing to peer pressure as the main example of why lunch boxes are a major issue, Leith argued that "The kids say, 'I get that, and Lucy gets that, and Emily gets that, why can't I?'"
Among her critics were those who felt strongly that Leith's statement was out of touch with the realities of food insecurity affecting families everywhere. Other criticism came from hordes of parents who consider packed lunches to be midday love notes. Although well-intentioned, the backlash was blown out of proportion (in our opinion), considering the fact that the quote was taken out of context.
Hear us out: Leith's larger argument pointed to a broken school system that needs to take more responsibility in educating students about food and eating. In fact, she believes that school lunch and nutrition education should be part of the curriculum, even taking steps to raise the issue with former British education secretary, Michael Gove.
While that might sound like a pretty tall order, Leith points out that that is the case in Finland. "They don't let any children bring anything into school ... so they all sit down, have a proper meal, learn." According to the Finnish Board of Education, the country became the first in the world to serve free meals in 1948. There is also a National Nutrition Council which "observes and improves the nutritional situation by preparing dietary guidelines for schools." The goal of these school meals is to teach good nutrition and eating habits, increase fruit and vegetable consumption, and guarantee a well-balanced meal for each student every day.
Applying this methodology to other schools around the world hinges, of course, on a reallocation of school resources, which is not always possible, but the point was to begin a conversation.
Which side of the school lunch debate are you on? Do you think schools should play a larger role in feeding students?