The price of a school lunch has jumped 10 per cent this year, an Independent on Sunday investigation has found, sparking fears that the financial crisis and rampant food inflation could jeopardise the "Jamie Oliver effect."
The newspaper's survey of more than 80 local education authorities found after years of minimising rises in the cost of school meals, scores of town halls have been forced to impose increases of up to 16 per cent. The cost of a school lunch is now almost $3.25 with many parents having to pay an extra $1.60 a week to ensure their child gets a nutritious meal.
"Our hypothesis was that the so-called 'built environment' -- what a person's environment around them might be -- would have an influence on the [teens'] diet and obesity rate," explained study co-author Janet Whatley Blum, an associate professor in the department of exercise, health and sports science at the University of Southern Maine. "But in terms of their school environment, we did not find that," she said.
"We think the reason for that is that the availability of unhealthy foods is basically ubiquitous," Blum noted. "So while the students said they do go and buy it around their schools, they also said that they also get that same food from home and from local stores near their home. So whether or not fast-food places are near to their schools really doesn't change the overall situation."
So, is this supposed to be good news?
Finally, it's no secret where kids get all those messages to eat junk food. The food industry markets to children in every possible way, a practice that's decried by governments around the globe.
But it may also be a problem of mixed messages--meaning corporate food interests talking out of both sides of their mouths.
Case in point: the Nestle company's website, which advises kids to "be healthy," but then tells parents they can get their children to drink more milk by tarting it up with chocolate or strawberry syrup, or even dropping some food dye and marshmallows into the glass.
It's hard to make this stuff up. Here's the entire list of Nestle's suggestions:
1. Add NESTLÉ® NESQUIK® chocolate or strawberry syrup or powder.
2. Drop some food coloring or marshmallows into the drinking glass.
3. Let me make my own instant pudding.
4. Serve milk ice-cold with a fresh batch of NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® cookies.
5. Put a star on the calendar for every glass I drink.
6. See who can make the best milk mustache.
7. Buy some crazy straws.
8. Make me a bowl of STOUFFER’S® Macaroni & Cheese for an afternoon snack.
9. Let me pick out my own special milk glass the next time we go to the store.
10. Let’s make NESTLÉ® NESQUIK® Chocolate Igloos!