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.”

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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  • That is way over the top.


  • No they don’t! Teachers need to stick to what their actual job is which is educating children in the curriculum and not snooping in lunch boxes, taking the food and withholding it, encouring students to dob in other students then chastising and counselling parents on the types of food THEIR children should eat when they aren’t the ones who pay that families shopping bill. These teachers have over stepped the mark, although, it would be with the full backing of the School Principal. There are only three R’s, reading, writing and arithmatic, not four R’s — ‘raiding’ lunch boxes which isn’t a part of the school curriculum.


  • My next door neighbours little girl started kindergarten this year. She went one day and her mum was asked to attend a parent teacher meeting the next day. It was to discuss the contents of her daughters lunchbox, the teacher was concerned there was one too many packets in there. The teacher even confiscated all the packet food until the girl had eaten all he received fresh food. Since when do teachers need to have so much power? They’re busy enough, the kid is 4 attending school 3 days a week!!!


  • Although healthy food is great, at least some food is better than none. I really believe that teachers should be teaching, not inspecting children’s lunch boxes even with the best intent in mind.
    Many children just won’t eat healthy and I have seen so many wonderful healthy lunch boxes which pass all the teachers ticks brought home uneaten at the end of the day. At least a few ‘nasty’ chips or biscuits would have been better than nothing all day.


  • I think their approach is a little dramatic. Why are they putting so much energy into kids lunches? I get that obesity is a huge problem, but why don’t you educate the children or even supply them with some healthy snack alternatives rather than shame them on front of their peers about their parents choice of food. If it’s that big of a deal, why not have a canteen set up (like they do in the USA) and have a set fee that the parents pay each year?


  • Yes it is important for children to eat healthy snacks and eat food that helps their brains and bodies BUT let the parents be the ones that make those choices. Sure, the school can give parents general advice about what is acceptable maybe through their newsletter BUT don’t search lunchboxes – parenting is touch and the last thing we parents need is another reminder of how we’re failing in the eyes of others.


  • Wow. What a judgy over-reaching society we are sometimes. This just goes beyond. It’s a parent’s prerogative to feed their kids what they feed them and their job to raise them. A teacher needs to stay within the boundaries of their job description. Sure teaching nutrition and health is a part of that but I can just imagine how some of these kids feel when items are confiscated. And primary school is BRUTAL with teasing and judgement. FFS my kids are being teased by other kids because their grandma has coronavirus!!!! I can’t imagine what goes on at this school.
    I’d show them with my feet and move my children to an alternative school that teaches inclusion and acceptance of others.


  • I don’t think they have the right to do that.
    Catering for little fussy eaters is hard enough. Giving them something deemed healthy and knowing they won’t eat it and would go hungry is something I don’t want to happen!


  • It would save everyone a lot of time and effort if parents packed appropriate lunches.


  • I always send the “right” foods but it annoys me that our kinder teachers check and send out “naughty slips”


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


  • 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!).


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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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