Free meals are no answer to eating convenience junk food

In his column (TESS, May 24) making the case for the provision of free school meals for the children of Bearsden and Bishopbriggs, among other places, John Aberdein quite seriously undermines his own argument.

While praising the quality of fresh food served at Stromness Academy, he then goes on to bemoan the fact that, despite the general excellence of the food available, many children still opt to eat junk.

What Mr Aberdein fails to explain is how this would change if free meals were given to everyone. Is he suggesting that in an era of free meals for all, only one meal would be offered to everyone, albeit of a wholesome variety?

If this were indeed to happen, wouldn't it drive even more children away to the chippy? Certainly it would lead to greater wastage even than happens now.

Predictably for a supporter of Tommy Sheridan, Mr Aberdein manages to blame "capitalism" for children's poor eating habits. Presumably he is nostalgic for the days of rationing and postwar austerity, when the state provided for everyone on a take it or leave it basis.

As Orkney is blessedly free of any multinational fast food chains, and none of them advertise on terrestrial television in this area, I find it hard to understand how the power of commerce can be blamed in Stromness Academy. He will have to try harder than that.

It's my strong belief that poor eating habits are learned at home, and there is little schools can do to change this. Of course children learn the value of good nutrition in science and HE, but how often does this connect to their actual behaviour? If they are used to eating convenience junk at home, they will continue, sadly, to do so at school.

Allan D Forrester Westray, Orkney

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