Posted: Mon 29th Apr 2024

School dinners failing to fill kids, Children’s Commissioner for Wales survey shows

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

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A survey has unveiled concerning statistics about the state of school dinners across schools in Wales.

According to the findings, a mere 19% of the children surveyed feel full after their school meals.

Almost half (44%) said they can’t have more food, seconds, if they ask for it.

The Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Rocio Cifuentes, who conducted the survey with schools across Wales, called the findings ‘an important snapshot of children’s views on a vital aspect of their lives’.

She called on the Welsh Government to listen to children as they review current school dinner guidelines.

On nutrition, almost a quarter (24%) of children said they can’t always have vegetables if they want them, and 22% said they can’t always have fruit if they want it.

490 children and young people aged between 7 and 18 answered the survey individually. A further 1250 children took part in groups, with teachers and youth workers submitting a summary of their views. These submissions supported the views shared by children directly.

When asked for their ideas on making school dinners better, by far the most common answer amongst children related to wanting more food.

Commenting on the findings, the Children’s Commissioner said: “We know that so many children rely on this meal as their most important source of energy and nutrition because working families are struggling to put food on the table at home. I’ve heard concerns anecdotally about portion sizes being too small for lots of children, and these survey results confirm those concerns. In the current societal context, it feels more important than ever that the main meal children are having in school gives them the energy and the nutrients they need to grow, to play, and to learn.

‘The Welsh Government have said that they’re reviewing the guidance and regulations behind school meals. This snapshot of children’s views gives a very strong indication to them that the guidance needs to change. It should be a priority for the Welsh Government to take this forward and to make sure they keep listening to children and young people’s views as part of their work. I’ve also shared children’s views with councils so they can reflect on these strong messages.’

‘The universal free school meals policy is fantastic, but it has to meet children’s needs in order to fulfil its full potential.  The Government recognise that for many,  this may be their only hot or substantial meal of the day, so we have to get this right and make sure that this significant investment by the Government is having the most positive effect possible on children’s lives. For us to do that, we have to listen to what children across Wales have told us. This isn’t just about right to good food, but to healthy development, access to education, and mitigating the impacts of child poverty too.”

One 11-year-old pupil said about the quality and quantity of the meals, “It doesn’t fill you up. It’s dry and they don’t give seconds.” Echoing this sentiment, a 10-year-old noted the lack of variety, “We have the same thing as the little ones,” indicating a uniformity in meals across different age groups.

Another 11-year-old reported feeling persistently hungry, highlighting a disparity in portion sizes: “We get the same amount of food as year 1 and it doesn’t fill us up. I always feel hungry after eating.”

Teachers have also observed these issues, with one commenting, “The group felt that there wasn’t enough choice of school dinners and that portion sizes were small. They were often left hungry.”


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