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What Were The Best School Dinners?

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by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
Published November 2nd 2013

Love them or hate them, school dinners have been a part of most children's lives. In the UK, school dinners were made compulsory by local authorities for all state schools. There was a legal nutritional requirement, and meals were meant to be free for children in low income families. This ensured that every child had a healthy, well balanced diet.

In the 1980s, however, Margaret Thatcher axed the free school meals system, meaning that poorer children could not afford these healthy meals. School dinners became cheaper, lower quality, with things like pizza, fried food, and chips.

Enter our angel delight, the celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, who in 2004, made it his mission to improve the quality of school dinners. It has taken time, but finally, school dinners are on the way to being nutritional again.

Which ever period in school dinner history you were in, one of the most iconic parts of the course was pudding. Traditional school puddings include spotted dick, treacle tart, semolina, and rice pudding. My mum has frequently told me stories about how at her school, everyone looked forward to rice pudding with jam. You were not allowed to swirl your jam though, because it was considered bad manners. Swirling was done in secret, and anyone caught had to pay the consequences.

Having gone to a private school, I never had school dinners. I consider myself luck about this, because I was growing up during the fatty fried food age. If school dinners were a part of your childhood, do you remember them with fondness or loathing? Did you look forward to a particular day when something special was on the menu? What was your favourite school dinner, and which was your nemesis?
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