School lunch police spending 30 minutes a day searching for banned snacks

A primary school has been criticised by parents because staff reportedly spend 30 minutes a day searching through pupils’ packed lunches confiscating "unhealthy" snacks.

The issue of "lunchbox shaming" was a hot topic on Sunrise earlier this week, where an increasing number of Aussie parents reported feeling under scrutiny by teachers and other parents for what they pack in their children's lunch boxes.

A commentator described condemnation from the "mummy sphere" if parents bake muffins not made entirely from scratch, or without organic ingredients.

The content of lunch boxes is a subject of great debate.
The content of lunch boxes is a subject of great debate.

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

Under the system, 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.

One UK 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, she told the Yorkshire Post.


"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.

Parents have been placed on alert about what they put in their children's lunch boxes. Picture: Getty images.
Parents have been placed on alert about what they put in their children's lunch boxes. Picture: Getty images.

"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.

"It’s double standards, as children with these healthy packed lunches can be sat next to a child having hot school dinners who is eating sponge pudding and custard," she said.

The mother says parents and children are
The mother says parents and children are

"How do you explain that to a six-year-old who has just had a cereal bar taken off him?"

The policy started at the school a year ago.

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.

The school has been searching packed lunches for banned foods. Picture: AAP, File
The school has been searching packed lunches for banned foods. Picture: AAP, File

"The policy is designed to support the different needs that exist within families, including budget and time constraints, and we take a flexible approach in individual cases where children have significant food issues.

"We only remove items with high fat or sugar content and replace with a healthy alternative.

"The majority of our parents are very supportive of this policy and since it was introduced there has been a noticeable increase in the amount of fruit and vegetables in packed lunches," Ms Carpenter said.

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