We know that children who eat healthy, well-balanced meals learn better at school, are less disruptive and find socialising easier. And nutrition plays a big part in this. So how do the classic sarnie and packed lunches fair nutritionally versus hot school meals?

Only 1% of packed lunches are nutritious enough

In the UK, school meals have to meet very specific standards when it comes to nutrition – not just to include at least one portion of vegetables and one of fruit every day, but to also meet targets for dairy, protein and carbohydrate portions. There are also clear recommendations for foods to limit, such as deep fat fried and sugary foods. You can read more here, if you’re interested.

Packed lunches do not have to adhere to the same nutritional standards as school meals and as a result, are often just not nutritious enough. In fact, research carried out by the University of Leeds found that just 1% – yes, 1% – of packed lunches met the same nutritional standards as school meals*.

Two-thirds of packed lunches contained a sugary drink and the same proportion had sweets or salty snacks in. Meanwhile, just one in five had the recommended proportion of vegetables.

Topping up the goodness

Here at the Farm Kitchen, we really care about giving children good, nutritious meals every day, because we believe that good food has the power to change everything. We’re always looking for ways to get more vegetables into our dishes, we use wholegrains wherever possible because they’re full of goodness and we never use sugar in main meals – opting for butternut squash or sultanas for natural sweetness instead.

A hot school meal cooked fresh that day with quality ingredients is always going to be more nutritious than the vast majority of packed lunches. Yes, there are some parents who will produce packed lunches with wonderful fresh salads, homemade granola bars etc, but that’s not the norm. Most parents simply don’t have the time or energy.

We understand that school meals will not be for everyone, but the nutritional value may just be worth a few more discussions, a little bit more encouragement to get your child to give school meals a go. And who knows, you may just get there (and save yourself having to make yet another packed lunch in the morning!)

Also, why not take a look at the photos of the meals that we have cooked for our schools recently – they may just win you and your child over…..

How to sign up for school meals

It’s easy to sign up, just contact your school and they will give you all the info you need. For those whose school uses The Farm Kitchen, here are the 4 simple steps to signing up:

  1.  Contact The Farm Kitchen for the Username and Password for your child –
  2. Go to and click on log in for parents
  3. Enter the username and password you were given by The Farm Kitchen
  4. Click on the Menu tab to choose the meals your child would like to eat each day from our termly menus

It really is that simple!

*All stats taken from The School Food Plan

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