MOST children are expected to eat their school meals in old-fashioned, dour, sad places, MPs were told this week.
They were discussing with school caterers the Government's new draft guidelines on school meals, which will be phased in over two years from next September.
These say that chips, roast or fried potatoes can be offered only three times a week; baked beans, once; cheese must not be served as the main source of protein more than twice a week; and fish must be an option at least once a week.
Pat Fellows, an independent consultant for the Local Authority Caterers' Association, said school meals were a vital part of children's education because that meal could be the only hot one of the day. But, she said: "Pupils are used to modern fast-food restaurants like McDonald's. Our dining rooms are old-fashioned, dour, sad places. If we are to try to encourage nutrition, we need to have the right ambience to attract customers."
Ian Wasson, chairman of LACA, told the Commons education sub-committee: "It is a bit patronising to tell experienced caterers how to boil and steam vegetables." He said it would have been more useful if the Government had insisted meals were hot. MPs were told that the children missing out on school meals included those who needed them the most.
The draft guidelines are available from DFEE publications. Tel: 0845 602 2260.