Families face school lunch challenge

20:38, Feb 27 2013

It's every parent's dilemma: do you pack your child's lunchbox with healthy food they won't eat, or give in and feed them junk?

You'd think that health experts might be trying to help, but not according to schools that say the guidelines they get are totally unrealistic.

The Heart Foundation is suggesting to low-income parents that they send their kids off to school each morning with cottage cheese pita pockets, celery and hummus, sushi, couscous, leftover chop suey, and chickpea curry.

Aranui Primary School principal Mike Allen questioned how low-income families were expected to afford such luxury lunch items as sushi and hummus when some days children were sent to school without any food at all.

He also did not believe the pupils at his school would even recognise some of the suggested items - let alone eat them.

"My kids just wouldn't eat that kind of stuff. We encourage children to bring a sandwich, piece of fruit, muesli bar and a biscuit."


The school had banned juice, lollies, chocolate bars, fish and chips and other takeaways in an attempt to keep the pupils eating healthy, Allen said.

Christchurch mother Charmaine Nolan said her children would "come home very hungry" if she packed their lunches with cottage cheese pita pockets and couscous.

"If I put that kind of stuff in, then one, I'd be extremely poor and two, they wouldn't even eat it," she said.

Nolan, who is on the domestic purposes benefit, has two children at primary school and said buying food for their lunches was "very expensive".

"I try to keep it healthy but I also try to keep the cost down," she told The Press.

She often sent her children to school with two pieces of fruit, a sandwich, a little bag of popcorn, a muesli bar and a biscuit.

Canterbury Primary Principals' Association president John Bangma agreed the Health Foundation's suggested items "were not very practical".

He asked how a pupil was expected to heat their leftover chop suey without access to a microwave.

"I couldn't imagine the children bringing along their little containers with those things in it," he said.

The school encouraged parents to pack healthy lunches, but Bangma said it was a "constant battle" against junk food.

The Heart Foundation admits its suggestions are not made with everyday budgets in mind.

"We classify these foods according to their nutrient profile. It's not aimed at promoting affordable foods," manager of regional operations and education Darryl Bishop said.

"Sushi and couscous might not be realistic choices for some people, but we're trying to show interesting things you can do with food and give people options."

The Press