No such thing as a free lunch

Even the thought of a school meal sends a shiver of dread down my spine.

Those were the days of dragging my feet into the school canteen back in Scotland, belching at the thought of the dire so-called cuisine on offer.

The UK’s school meals in general back in my day were not so much the laughing stock of Europe but the example of what children should not be eating, unless they want to be obese or unhealthy.

I hated them.

In primary school, age 4-11, I normally came home to have lunch but on the occasion my parents were both working then I had to eat at school.

I had to at least try to eat the food on offer.

I used to be a fussy eater, granted, but even though we all like junk food on occasion, every day is not good.

I recall being sick a number of times.

It was so unhealthy, just meat and fried food mostly, the only vegetable being chips or French fries if you can count that.

Not even nice chips.

Having survived that phase, I went onto high school where the food was not great but in later years at least it opened my eyes to more exotic cuisine such as pasta and rice.

They even threw in the odd vegetable to balance the carbs.

School meals in Scotland are normally for kids whose parents are either genuinely hard-up or are too lazy to get a job so the local council gives them a range of benefits, which include free school meals for their kids.

If they are of the lazy persuasion, it suits their full-time job of sitting, watching TV all day without being disturbed by pesky kids coming home at lunch-time.

The best meal on offer at high school for me, both my parents worked, was actually the local chip van which parked outside my school.

Okay chips and bread, a roll ‘n chips as it is called in the home of the deep-fried Mars bar.

It was not too healthy either but at least those chips tasted damn good.


Kids buying food from a canteen at a school in Hồ Chí Minh City

No matter how unhealthy food eaten during my school days as an athletic young kid, you could burn off the calories as long as you were outside enjoying yourself.

No internet or the likes back then to keep kids stuck at home.

However, for all the faults of a typical Scottish or British school canteen’s stodgy fare as far as I recall, at least the food was not life-threatening.

In this fair Hồ Chí Minh City, though, one doctor is claiming school cuisine could be dangerous for kids.

One article which informed that Hồ Chí Minh City children may be exposed to the threat of a stroke when they eat food and candy from school canteens, hit me hard that maybe I was being a little harsh on the old country.

Apparently the dangerous items are cheap sugary treats and dried squid which of course will be snapped up by the kids looking for a candy fix.

The snacks only cost VND2,000 to VND5,000 so cost is definitely not a problem, and according to canteen staff in the city the kids go crazy for them.

There have been reports of kids having inflammation of the mouth, thrush or even having peels of skin coming off after eating some of the candy on offer at Hồ Chí Minh City schools.

One child was sick after eating the dried squid.

Now not one to stick up for canteen food as you can see above, I think there are more things to worry about.

Perhaps, the doctors understandably are trying to ensure not only that kids don’t eat food of unknown origins, but that they don’t eat too much sugar which can cause excess fat and, as doctors say, in extreme cases a stroke.

Cheap sweets are always going to have too much sugar, which is why the kids love them.

Now there is alleged dangerous school canteen food and then there is… murder.

In India, 23 children died after eating food at school with police charging a school principal and her husband with murder as they believe that the poisoning was deliberate.

The children, aged between four and 12, fell ill on July 16 after eating lunch which was contaminated with pesticide, which police say the couple bought 48 hours before the alleged murders.

The kids began vomiting and suffering stomach cramps within minutes of eating the meal of lentils, potatoes and rice, which was cooked in oil with high levels of pesticide monocrotophos.

The food in question is part of the world’s largest school meals program but preparation is reportedly often unhygienic.

On the one hand, this lunch program has helped poor families and apparently as a result of the free food it has increased the number of kids going to school as well as helping the fight against malnourishment.

But this has come at a cost to 23 families.

Maybe there is no such thing as a free lunch




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