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Teaching staff reportedly spend 30 minutes a day searching through pupils’ packed lunches confiscating “unhealthy” snacks.

Many schools across the country have adopted a traffic light system which categorises food as red, amber and green based on its nutritional value.

Green foods such as meat and vegetables are permitted all the time, while amber foods like sausage rolls and biscuits are allowed occasionally. However, red items such as potato chips and cereal bars are banned completely.

A mother-of-four is considering launching a petition against the practice at her children’s school.

The mother, whose children attend Westgate Primary School in Otley, West Yorkshire, said “The teaching assistants take at least half-an-hour inspecting children’s packed lunches in the morning while wearing rubber gloves.”

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If snacks high in fat or sugar are found in lunch boxes during the daily searches, they are bagged up and handed back to parents,.

The worst part?

“Kids as young as eight are being given the responsibility to “advise” and tell on their friends if they have inappropriate items in their lunch.

“If an item is removed it is bagged up with the child’s name and given to parents at the end of the day,” the mother said.

“The school says lunches have improved, they have, but at the expense of parents and children who are scared stiff of taking the wrong thing.”

The mother, who works full-time, said she often had to dash out to the shops late at night if she finds she has run out of green or amber food items.

Head teacher Helen Carpenter said: “Encouraging healthy eating amongst our pupils is really important to us here at Westgate Primary School.

“We have adopted a packed lunch policy, like many other schools, with a view to ensuring our pupils have a healthy, balanced and nutritious lunch.”

Parents are outraged that teachers dare touch a child’s lunch and question why they aren’t more concerned about the children who are often sent to school with no food!

– “Absolutely not!!! No one has any right to go through another child’s lunch box let alone take their food from them… ”

– “Perhaps focus on helping the children who are sent to school with empty tummies and no lunches at all.”

– “This is an absolute joke, its hard enough finding foods that kids can take to school that they will actually eat let alone having someone go through their lunch box and take it away its just wrong.”

– “Seriously, as a teacher, I am more concerned about kids not having any lunch or snack packed in their bags!”

– “No, teachers jobs are to educate children. My job is to feed my children. Ill leave you to your job and you leave me to mine.”

– “What a waste of time. I’m a teacher & I would NEVER do this.”

– “As a teacher, I’m more concerned when kids don’t have ANY lunch. As the parent of a fussy eater, I think the parents know best what their kids will and won’t eat.”

Chocolate Milk Shame

We recently shared how a popular blogger slammed her son’s primary school teacher after learning he was told he couldn’t have his ‘unhealthy’ chocolate milk during recess. Read her story here.

In another incident we shared how parents were confused after one mum was told sultanas were not an acceptable lunch box snack – read that here.

And then we shared that a Melbourne mum was told her daughter’s greek yoghurt and vegemite biscuit snacks were deemed unhealthy according to her kindergarten’s policy. Read that here.

In the past parents have expressed concern that constant policing of children’s food will encourage an unhealthy relationship with eating at a young age. Other parents say schools are setting unreasonable expectations, and what matters is that children are getting fed – not what’s on the menu.

Of course there are some food items that should never be in a children’s lunchbox – as this mum discovered!

We do know that more than 30,000 Australian children are severely obese, according to a national study into childhood health.

Healthy eating policy

The Right Bite and healthy eating policy classifies food and drink into three categories according to their nutritional or ‘healthy eating’ value.

Green foods
Green category foods and drinks are the healthiest choices. Schools and preschools are encouraged to provide as many choices as possible from this category.

Amber foods
Amber category foods and drinks are more processed with some added salt, sugar or fat. Schools and preschools are encouraged to select carefully from this category.

Red foods
Red category foods and drinks are highly processed, energy dense and nutrient poor. These are banned from sale in government school canteens and vending machines at all times.

Find a full list of the foods here.

Do schools really have the right to police kids’ food? Share your comments below

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  • I send healthy homemade snacks sometimes but they don’t look healthy lol

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  • No, I don’t think this is right – it’s up to the parents what they give their children (most parents pick healthy options so it’s none of the teachers’ business – plus, they are supposed to be paid to teach, not to police eating habits!).

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  • My school knows that what’s in my daughters lunch box is none of their business after I got the first note home about a chocolate chip cookie

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  • I think it is totally wrong that kids lunches are inspected. We are the parents and should be allowed to give our kids a snack for the day like chips or a muffin. As long as there is plenty of good foods as well.
    What a shocka

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  • My little one started kindy this year, I try to pack his box as healthy as possible and not pack to much, he is a fussy eater, so I try and pack stuff I know he will eat. I am dreading one of these coloured notes coming home! I’m struggling at different things to pack each day. I don’t think it is up to the teachers to decide what we pack for our kids is acceptable or not (within reason).
    I didn’t have to worry about any of this when he was at daycare, as daycare was catered and I know he would eat what ‘they’ provided.

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  • It really has nothing to do with them whats in the kids lunchboxes really. I would be annoyed if what I packed was questioned

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  • I have a friend whose little girl started kindergarten this year. She was at school for just one day and the teacher requested a parent teacher meeting to discuss the contents of the little girls lunchbox. The teacher social ed they like to encourage healthy eating from a young age and she felt there was one too many packaged goods in the lunchbox. The teacher even held onto some of the food and told the child she could have her treats “only when the healthy food had been eaten.” I was horrified, this is most definitely over stepping the mark and teachers shouldn’t be asked to carry out these duties

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  • It’s none of their business what children bring to school. I would be very mad if my kids teachers looked in their lunch boxes and questioned what they had.

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  • That half an hour wasted could be used to spend more time educating the children. This is so wrong. Teachers are not employed as health critics and it should be stopped.

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  • Pretty sure teachers have better things to do. I would hate to be a teacher having to search through lunchboxes. But this is a story from overseas, hopefully Australian schools aren’t quite as strict………….yet!

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  • more stress added to parents

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  • Teachers have no idea what the ingredients in some food are. Sausage rolls are mentioned. Those sausage rolls many have been made at home with more grated vegetables than meat (it might be very lean meat) and the pastry may be special ingredients to cope with medical issues with no salt in it at all. Some diets their bread tastes ghastly and is dry like cardboard even when you buy fresh every day. The same applies to muffins which may have grated vegetables or fruit like apple, not dried fruit or plain with sugar and perhaps salt too.

    Reply

  • I think this is going completely over the top and shaming kids is just wrong. Our school puts lots of information and suggestions in their weekly newsletters etc on what a good lunch box ideas, but unfortunately a lot of the time junk food is cheaper and perhaps that’s all they can afford.

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  • As a teacher I have enough to do without being the lunch box police as well!

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  • I think we need to leave this alone. Let’s not shame people who are trying their best. We don’t know what goes on behind closed doors and in people’s homes and why they provide the lunches they do. There are many kids sent to school without breakfast and with no lunch, so let’s give people the benefit of the doubt that they’re doing the best they can.

    Reply

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