Parents or schools – who should be responsible for school lunches?

Danish parents having a hard time letting go of preparing lunch boxes for their children

A heated debate about the benefits of the traditional school lunch boxes versus canteen food prepared according to healthy guidelines has broken out on TV2’s Facebook page, with more than 1,500 people reacting to experts’ suggestions.

Jon Fuglsang, a food sociologist, believes meals prepared in a canteen are more appetising and nutritious. They stimulate children’s taste buds, he contends, as canteens often use more challenging recipes and variety than the traditional lunch boxes.

Sweets and toast bread
According to his research, most home-prepared lunch boxes contain sugary sweets and white toast bread.

“It may well be that parents have good intentions; however, many lunch boxes are being prepared in a hurry. If you have to make a lunch box that matches some of the good school meal programs, it requires a lot of resources, time and raw ingredients,” Fuglsang told TV2.

Fuglsang also believes eating school food can contribute to a greater sense of community and blur inequality between children as the same meals are enjoyed by everyone.

My responsibility as a parent
Some parents, including Freja Katrine Jakobsen, whose Facebook comment received almost 300 likes, strongly disagree.

“No thanks! I am fully able to give my children healthy and nutritious lunches. Neither the kindergarten nor the school have ever been able to match my lunches,” she wrote.

Similarly, Michael Tran-Schwartzmann rejected the idea, pointing to negative experiences they’ve had with school food in the UK and the US.

“No way! Look abroad, especially in England and the United States where obesity reigns among school kids,” he wrote.

“Prefabricated ‘dishes’, French fries, burgers, chips and more. No thanks! I prefer to keep track of what my kids are putting in their mouth. It is my responsibility as a parent to make sure they have a proper and healthy upbringing. I think we’ve seen plenty of scary examples in recent years of the ‘quality’ of what the public can offer for instance to our senior citizens.”

Delicious school lunches
However, other parents are excited about the idea of meal programs in schools and kindergartens.

“My son goes to a kindergarten where they have a lunch program with a huge delicious menu. They always have homemade, healthy, delicious and mostly organic food. I would love it if the same was possible when he gets to school,”Anja Charlotte Sørensen commented.

Danish speciality
Fulgsang noted Danish parents find it difficult to surrender control, and for many of them making a lunch box for their children is showing love and care.

The tradition to prepare school lunch boxes for children at home is somewhat unique to Denmark, as other Scandinavian countries, such as Sweden and Finland, have the same canteen system as in the UK, Germany or France.