Removing the junk

In his reply to my letter on the subject of free school meals for all, John Aberdein fails to answer convincingly my main objection: why should taxpayers pay to feed children whose parents are able to do this themselves?

No reasonable person would argue that school meals should not be healthy and nutritious, and that the trend towards "fast-food restaurant" style school canteens where children are almost encouraged to eat bad food is to be deplored.

Neither could anyone reasonably oppose the notion that children from low-income families should receive a free meal. This is a world away, however, from agreeing that everyone should be fed by the state.

There are people, however, who have a responsibility for ensuring that children eat good food, and learn the many benefits of a shared, wholesome meal. These people are called parents. Tommy Sheridan's Bill takes away from parents any responsibility for ensuring that their children are properly nourished.

Apart from the small minority of parents who genuinely cannot afford to feed their children, there is no real economic reason why so many children have a poor diet. I would suggest that this is a price we have to pay for living in a free society. People have to be allowed to make wrong choices, and some people do.

Instead of propagating the idea that the state, through schools, should play father and mother to all children, Mr Sheridan should be campaigning to raise the standard of school food in general, and trying to find a more imaginative way of overcoming the alleged stigma of the free dinner ticket.

I fear that John Aberdein is indulging in wishful thinking when he makes his claim that "when schools remove the junk food option . . . then the intake of nutritious food will increase by leaps and bounds".

Allan D Forrester Westray, Orkney

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