Father's day

29th April 2005 at 01:00
So why hasn't Michael Cook been invited to Downing Street?

What's Jamie Oliver got that I haven't? Fame, yes. Wealth, yes. Possibly his lifestyle has a soupcon more metropolitan glamour than my own. Possibly he has professional knowledge of just what a soupcon is. But still, why does his fatherly interest in the nutrition of our children get him a cuppa at No 10, and my fatherly interest in the education of my children get me a cuppa at playtime? Shouldn't Tony Blair ask for my opinion on something? Even if it's just sharpening pencils?

I'll admit, school dinners are not my subject. For a start, my children take lunchboxes, and my wife packs them, so they could be eating cotton wool and cardboard for all I know. Plus, my shift ends at midday, so my only meetings with the dinner ladies are as they clank out cutlery down one end of the open-plan classroom while I frantically gather up equipment in fear of being caught up in a border dispute.

But I suspect Jamie's not needed here. This is an official Healthy Eating school. The children have their daily fruit. They get a sticker if they try something new, or bring a lunchbox filled with wholemeal bean-sprout smoothies. They take water bottles into lessons to keep alert (although what they gain in hydrated brain power, they may lose in extra trips to the toilet).

One-third of British children are obese, we are told. But this lot have the skinny growth-spurt look that could come from the healthy days of ration books and ringworm. Yes, there is the occasional overweight kid. But, one in threeI?

I think we're more clued up than Jamie suspects. A helpful leaflet from the supermarket tells me that a portion of fruit and vegetables "cannot include fruit-flavoured cola drinks or jam". But has anybody really been merrily guaranteeing their "five a day" with four raspberry doughnuts and a Pepsi Max?

So my own contribution to the health of the nation is modest. I cut out and staple the words "healthy living" on to a display. I should really use a ruler, and end up pulling the staples out more than once to rearrange the letters, until the board, the backing and the words look like tea bags, packed with little perforations. But at least I have an excuse. It's nearly lunchtime, and, unlike the children, I haven't rehydrated my brain since breakfast.

Michael Cook is a freelance copywriter and a parent helper at Ernehale infants school, Arnold, Nottingham, which his children, Alfie and Poppy, attend

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