This week a Melbourne mum was chastised for putting a Lamington in her child’s lunch box.  One teacher has had enough though and wants schools to keep their noses out of kids lunches!

A Melbourne mother is furious after a school shamed her for including a lamington in her child’s lunch box.

Speaking to Seven News, the mum claimed her child wasn’t able to finish her lunch because the school said one of the snacks didn’t comply with the school’s nutrition standards.

The lamington was returned uneaten, along with a note from the kindergarten, saying “it doesn’t comply with the school’s nutrition policy”.

The mother was told not to include it in her child’s lunch again.

lamington warning


One teacher has had enough of the lunch box shaming!

Kelly Fullerton is a primary teacher and nutritionist based in the north-western suburbs of Melbourne.   She recently shared a blog on this very matter – “Mind Your Own Lunch Box.”

Kelly writes, “Over the last few years school lunch boxes have become a battleground as a means to fight obesity and also to identify what’s considered healthy and unhealthy.

You’ll read in mainstream media that a number of schools around Australia are implementing ‘healthy eating’ policies. These policies can mandate what can or cannot be provided in a lunch box with monitoring of this by schools. While this may be a means to manage or influence healthy eating it also places a considerable strain on parents, children and teachers.

Schools have a brilliant opportunity to bring about behaviour change because let’s be honest, that’s what they do best. How do you think a child learns to read, write or problem solve in maths? They’re exposed to a variety of developmentally appropriate strategies to employ a new skill set (behaviour) to progress in the learning.

As someone who has studied child development and now childhood nutrition, I implore a pull back on the approach of lunchbox policing and to reconsider the purpose of such policies.

Are these policies really helping support parents in feeding their children or creating more problematic feeding behaviours long term? I would argue for the latter and here is my evidence-based response.”

Kelly explains her reasoning below…

Let’s rethink the valued added language about food

The mere labelling of food as ‘good, bad, healthy, unhealthy’ is problematic. The reason being that using value labelled terms like this is very confusing for a developing brain to understand. Young children do not have the cognitive capacity to understand these abstract concepts.

In education we refer to the brain as a “meaning making motor” and build learning around different sensory stimuli. This is where we encourage an internal narrative to think about the learning process. An important aspect of this internal dialogue is the emotion that’s attached to it. Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist that focussed on the sociocultural development of learning talked about ‘thought being language turned inwards’.

Unfortunately children can associate language like, ‘if I eat bad food, that means I’m a bad person and if I eat good food, I’m a good person.’ This is the common kind of language that we use for ‘sometimes foods’. It’s important that our external narrative, so how we talk about food with children becomes our internal narrative. As adults we communicate with emotion, especially when it comes to placing judgement on food. Food is really something that’s morally neutral and yes, food it’s just a noun. Our communication about food and the language we associate with it forms our future relationship with it. It would be wonderful if we can learn shift our thinking into a different space about this.

Children are innate eaters

Children are born with an innate ability to tune into their hunger and satiety. Basically, children are pretty good at eating enough to maintain an energy balance. Children’s genetic makeup and their environment influences how they self-regulate their food intake. The more we interfere with this as a means to control the feeding experience, the more we can create problematic feeding behaviours, which in turn creates stress. Stress won’t allow the body to accept food willingly if the emotional response is too great.

The social aspect of eating is a valuable learning experience especially when there’s no pressure to eat or an expectation that everything served needs to be eaten. The school environment allows children to be exposed to positive role modelling of peers accepting of a variety of foods. Children will feel safe and learn that the food is safe to eat. Safe foods are those that children readily eat. Not all children grow to like all foods on initial introduction but take many exposures before willing to taste or accept. The eating experience is one that needs to be relaxed, joyful and comforting.

The ‘GOLD’ standard for feeding children

The gold standard for feeding children called ‘The Division of Responsibility (DoR)’ by Ellyn Satter is a proven model reinforced by Dietitians and Nutritionists worldwide.

This pertains to the following:


THE CHILD is ALWAYS responsible for HOW MUCH and WHETHER to eat the food offered by the parent.

If we add the role of the SCHOOL or TEACHER, this would be in support of  WHEN and WHERE to eat.

How can schools help in feeding children?

– Schools can be respectful of each of the roles of Ellyn Satter’s DoR approach.
– Schools can support parents in feeding their children by allowing enough time to eat in a relaxed environment.
– They trust that children can feed their body’s enough food. This may include not eating everything in the lunch box.
– Allow children to have a water bottle on their table to sip on throughout the day to maintain hydration.
– Insist that children are seated when eating as this will aid and improve digestion.
– Allow children to eat without judgement about food.

Where to go with school policy development?

Policy development around healthy eating requires careful forethought and evidence-based research that considers the needs of the school community. Looking differently about what we can add to teachers, parents and children’s skill set and literacy about food and eating is just a start. Engaging with parents in conversations about the importance of health in context of child development and how it impacts on growth and learning should be the centre of policy development. Schools have a powerful position to nurture the wellbeing of communities. Let’s look at how we can do it differently and do it better.

Have you been reprimanded by the lunch box police?

Share your comments below

Originally appeared on Embracing Nutrition

We may get commissions for purchases made using links in this post. Learn more.
  • Finally a teacher that agrees that it can be harmful.


  • The school should be teaching the children on healthy eating not monitoring their lunchboxes. Better yet, the school can provide the healthy lunches everyday at no cost to the families if they are so worried. Bet that doesn’t happen.


  • A balanced diet is important. Lunchboxes I think should be mostly healthy but a small treat should be ok now and again.


  • I couldn’t love and agree with this article more. It is totally true that labelling food as ‘good, bad, healthy, unhealthy’ is problematic. Teacher’s have a snapshot of what a child eats in the entire day. They have no context for why an item is in the lunchbox – perhaps that child has agreed to earn a treat in their lunchbox and they only get a treat once a week or once a fortnight!! Perhaps that mum homemade that lamington out of chickpea flour!! How on earth would that teacher know? And it’s not the teacher’s fault, I am sure they are requested to provide feedback in line with their school’s policy. Again, providing feedback on food to children creates problems. I still remember my Year 1 teacher (more than 30 years ago) telling a boy in my class that he was eating fatty foods too much and I still remember his little face crying when she berated him. If my child’s teacher/school did this I would absolutely be in the Principal’s office with an armload of research and they would get an earful from me!


  • I would have told the school to go and take a long walk off a short pier or go and get stuffed! Sometimes when a little treat is included in a lunch box the child will eat it all if they can have a treat. Schools are going too bloody far!


  • Saffron – honest and spot on comment and definitely curriculum based is the way to go. :)


  • When my child’s school buys my groceries then they can dictate what I pack in my child’s lunch box. Schools these days over step the mark, they think they’re the parent police. Their jurisdiction about nutrition should start and end at the school canteen. If they’re concerned about child obesity then add it to the curriculum as a subject, after all, they’re there to teach not preach. BTW, I love this teacher.


  • I have a niece that has cystic fibrosis, she has to have more salt, calories & fat & has to eat more than most children more often, so a packet of potato chips in her school bag is good for her health especially in summer as well as a sports drinks, cheesescakes, puddings etc along with fruit, nuts, vegetables, cheese, milk etc. I know schools are informed of dietary requirements, but, do they realise how the other children feel seeing her being able to eat what she has to eat & they are not allowed to have what she has. I don’t see a problem with a child having a piece of cake, a muffin or a small packet of chips with their lunch, as long as it isn’t everyday & that they have fruit, salad etc as well


  • They should only check to make sure there is no items that could trigger allergy problems for other people at the school – e.g. nuts. Recently I found out that some medications actually leech out of your skin. If you come into skin contact with a person who has taken any to you can have a serious adverse reaction – even cause anaphalexia. If you have a child with a problem such as that you should notify the school. Your child should also have an epi-pen.


  • I don’t have a problem with a healthy lunchbox policy. If you want you could give the more unhealthy foods at home.


  • Good on a teacher for stepping up and saying this! Lunch box shaming is not helpful in any way. The issue of being healthy is bigger than a lamington in a lunch box.


  • so instead of letting the parents send lunch the schools can start providing them, simple


  • I can understand the reasons behind schools being like this. So many kids are overweight and have terribly unhealthy diets. But I don’t think lunchbox shaming is a good way to fix the problem


  • Schools and kindy’s all have their own policies. I don’t always agree with the policy but like all policies…if you don’t like it then leave.


  • I think it’s too much too. All this shaming. Terrible.


Post a comment
Like Facebook page

LIKE MoM on Facebook

Add a photo
Your MoM account

Lost your password?

Enter your email and a password below to post your comment and join MoM:

You May Like


Looks like this may be blocked by your browser or content filtering.

↥ Back to top

Thanks For Your Star Rating!

Would you like to add a written rating or just a star rating?

Write A Rating Just A Star Rating