What are your views on food and drink in school or college?
For this question young people were asked to consider the food and drink that they get at school or at college, and the places where they can eat and drink.
We split our theme into 4 parts.
In pulling together the views of children and young people we use a number of pieces of text or art work which they have sent. To see more artworks and larger versions please go to the Groups Taking Part pages.
What do you think of the food and drinks that are available at school or at college - tell us good and bad things.
Comments from children and young people focused on four key areas: choice, quality, taste and presentation.
Of the 7 young people asked by a peer researcher in Bathgate about choice of school meals 4 said ‘plenty choice’, 3 said ‘not enough choice’. COZ project
Of the 14 young people who completed a questionnaire at the XL club in Bellshill all of them thought that there was not enough choice. They said they wanted more of the following things: pasta, salads, pot noodles, pasties, baked potatoes, baguettes, mini-melts, more healthy food and better drinks.
Young people at the Xplore project in Dundee thought that there was not enough choice for vegetarians. They also thought that the choice improved when you went to college.
Children at the Matrix project liked that " …you can get hot food on cold days and cold food on hot days” - girl aged 10. Overall they were happy with their school meals. Boy aged 11 said: “There is a large choice and it fills you up”. They would still like more choice however including “more varieties of soup” - Boy aged 9, and better access to “drinks machines”. Boy, aged 11.
Children at the Matrix project constructed menus and lists of things they would like to see available in school.
Of the 7 young people asked by a peer researcher in Bathgate about whether school meals needed to be improved, all 7 said yes. (COZ project)
Of the 14 young people who completed a questionnaire at the XL club in Bellshill all of them thought that the quality of food was very poor. For example a boy aged 13 said: “The food is not very nice, it’s kind of greasy most of the time and the price is high”. A 14year old boy thought the “food in stinking”. Another boy aged 15, listed the main problems with school meals as: “The price, not enough and too much salt”.
Poor quality was a common theme in the responses form young people at Right Track in Drumchapel, comments included: “The school drinks are pure stinking, they are watered down, they should just sell cans of juice”. Girl 15
At the Crannog West Project pupils were happy with their canteen, but still “the food tastes rotten”.
Young people at the Crannog Central project agreed that food in school was of a poor quality: “There’s nothing good about school dinners, they’re just disgusting. Everything was half cooked”.
Of the 7 young people asked by a peer researcher in Bathgate about taste of school meals 4 said ‘not bad’, 2 said ‘not tasty’ and only 1 thought they were well tasty. (COZ project)
Of the 14 young people who completed a questionnaire at the XL club in Bellshill all of them thought that food tasted poor, overwhelmingly they said “The chips taste like plastic”. Girl 16
Of the 7 young people asked by a peer researcher in Bathgate about presentation of school meals 3 said ‘not bad’, 3 said ‘not well presented’ and only 1 thought they were well presented. (COZ project)
The Levenmouth Links group decided to tackle this question by taking some young people on a residential weekend to discuss the issues. If you would like to download a copy of the programme go here. If you are experiencing difficulty opening the pdf files, get the latest version of Acobat Reader
Where do you most like to eat during your school day or college day? Is it in school or college or somewhere else? What things affect your choice of where to eat? Tell us about your school or college dining rooms or canteens.
Comments from children and young people centred on the quality of service, social atmosphere and choice.
Quality of service
Of the 7 young people asked by a peer researcher in Bathgate about the quality of the service given by staff 1 said ‘it’s good’, 3 said ‘it’s not bad’, 3 said ‘service is bad’. (COZ project)
Children at the Quest Quarriers project also commented on the adults who worked in the dining hall: A boy aged 10 said “Sometimes the dinner ladies and the other adults are nasty and rude to children. Like if they want extra chips or tomato and they won’t give it to you”
Young people at the Xplore project in Dundee thought that a comfy canteen encouraged people to come and use it.
Right Track in Drumchapel raised a concern about the dining hall being noisy and overcrowded.
A 10 year old boy at the Quarriers Quest project also talked about the social atmosphere of the dinner hall, about it being too busy, about adults being a bit moany and about choice. Another boy aged 7 also told us things about the dining room and that the service sometimes runs out of food he wants.
A 15 year-old girl at Right Track in Drumchapel offered a typical view about leaving school because of the state of the hall: “I went to the shops or van for my lunch because the dining hall was a disgrace. It was always too messy and there were always too many people in it”. A 15 year-old wanted to eat outside because he disliked the canteen so much: “I went to the shop to buy my lunch and I ate outside because I did not like eating in the canteen”.
A young person at Crannog Central agreed that the busy canteen can put some people off: “I would usually eat at the park near the school canteen as I don’t like eating in big groups”.
Young people at the Crannog East project liked their school canteen, they thought it had good seating and plenty of space but were annoyed by a lack of choice and availability later in the lunchtime.
Sometimes young people just like to go somewhere different, for example a 15 year-old girl at Right Track in Drumchapel said: “When I did eat the school dinners I usually sat in the canteen but on occasion I went to McDonalds because I liked the change”.
Young people at the Crannog East project agreed about getting out of school: “Go to the café in town, out of school, it was better to go out of school at lunch time. You were stuck in school for 4 periods, you need to get out”.
Some young people get free school meals but then don’t take them. Why do you think this is? What could we do about it?
Why do some pupils not take their free school meal entitlement?
The main reasons for pupils not taking up their free school meal entitlement were as follows:
- The stigma associated with free school meals, the fear was that other people would think you were poor. This means that some people would rather not eat.
- If friends are not taking free school meals it means being separated form them, and lunch time is an important social time.
- If people lose swipe cards or tickets and have to pay for another they may not do so, or be able to do so.
- Because you have a free school meal entitlement it does not mean you like what is on offer.
- Queues are too long and take up too much time.
- Some people will sell their free school meal for a smaller amount of cash to eat elsewhere or buy a cigarette.
This is what we were told by the projects:
One young person at the Crannog Central project told us they “…don’t eat, don’t like going, embarrassed about free food and having a ticket”.
Amongst the 14 young people who completed a questionnaire at the XL club in Bellshill the view was that pupils sometimes don’t take up their free school meal because:
“People look down on them” Boy 14
“Some people might think they might be poor”. Boy 14
“You don’t like what’s on offer, you want to go with friend or its because you have to pay for a new card” Girl 13. Note: Pupils use a swipe card system for school meals – but people often lose their cards and then have to pay 50p to get a new one.
“If you lose your ticket, you have to pay”. Boy 14
“I think this is because they have to wait ages to get food”. Boy 14
“They don’t like the food that’s on offer” Boy 14
These comments came from the Right Track group in Drumchapel in Glasgow:
- “I think a lot of people did not take the free school meals because they did not like the food that was served in the school cafeteria. If the quality of the food was improved then a lot more pupils would eat their free meals”. Girl 15
- “Some people would sell their tickets so that they could have money to go get their lunch somewhere else or they would just want the money for something. If they brought in card swiping system like they use in other schools this would stop”. Girl 15
- “The meals are so bad in school that they don’t want to eat them no matter if they are free. If the food was better then they might start eating their free school meals”. Girl 14
- “The school meals were pure minging and that is why no one wanted to eat them. Also some people might have felt embarrassed that they got a free school meal so did not want to get a free meal in front of their pals. If everybody got a ticket and they made the meals better then more people would eat them”. Girl 15
The group in Easterhouse summed up their views as follows:
- The pupils said that they found it embarrassing to go to the dinner queue with a free ticket as everyone would know that there was not enough money coming into the house.
- Sometimes the pupils would collect the ticket but would sell it to someone else who was not entitled to free school meals, this meant that the seller had a wee bit of money for their own use. The buyers also had more money as Mum would give maybe give them £2 per day and yet they would only pay 50p for the ticket. It tended to be the more confident pupils who were the buyers, or smokers because they were keen to have money for cigarettes.
Young people at the Crannog West project also thought that pupils opt out of free school meals because the quality is poor, because some people sell their ticket, and because “it’s embarrassing, people think you’re poor”.
What could we do to encourage pupils to take their free school meals?
The pupils at Right Track in Easterhouse feel that the introduction of swipe cards will be a very big benefit, as no-one will know their personal circumstances.
Amongst the 14 young people who completed a questionnaire at the XL club in Bellshill the views included:
- “Give everybody a free school meal”. Boy 14
- “Let friends go with you, and don’t make people pay for swipe cards”. Girl 13
- “Its better if your friends go with you” Girl 14
- “Make the food better, less greasy and more choice of foods and salads” Boy 13
- “Have bigger choice and take-away” Boy 14
- “I would go if my pals went” Boy 14
One young person at the Crannog Central project suggested that: “Instead of a money limit put an item limit of maybe 4 items of your choice”.
The food and drinks available at school or college are supposed to be getting healthier, what do you think about that?
What do you think about the move toward healthier food?
Of the 7 young people asked by a peer researcher in Bathgate about fruit and vegetables on the school meals menu, 2 said ‘more please’, 5 said ‘enough thanks!’. (COZ project)
Young people from the Right Track group in Easterhouse talked about more choice in mainstream school than in special school or in units. They talked about there being less queues for healthy food, meaning longer queues. This is what they said.
Young people from the Right Track group in Easterhouse talked about a lack of choice, with the local snack vans providing particularly unhealthy food. They also talk about the lack of fresh, cold drinking water. Young people mention that healthy options are not always as filling as unhealthy ones, and if you have a limited amount of money you are likely to buy what fills you up.
What can we do to encourage healthy choices?
Of the 14 young people who completed a questionnaire at the XL club in Bellshill most of them thought that they didn’t eat healthily, but some said they sometimes did. Most agreed that the food available in school is not healthy enough. More than half wanted to know more about what is healthy and what is not, they were equally split about whether schools should help them find out more about healthy eating.
The young people at the XL club in Bellshill thought the best way for schools to encourage people to eat healthier would be to improve choice, to make sure healthy food tastes good and to promote or advertise healthy foods. But the most suggested thing to do was to make healthy food cheaper.
Children at the Quest Quarriers project recognised the importance of a healthy breakfast and breakfast clubs in school, they thought junk food tasted better. One of the children produced this piece. Other children identified what they saw as healthy and unhealthy foods. An 8 year old boy at the Quarriers Quest project told us that sometimes he just buys a biscuit with his money but that he would buy a hot meal if he could have a fizzy drink with it.
Questioning the claim that it’s getting healthier:
The Right Track group in Drumchapel told us that pupils won’t make healthy choices if the quality of that food is as poor as the other choices. They questioned whether there had been improvements to what is on offer. As a 14 year-old girl told us: “I don’t think they are getting healthier, they are getting worse. Dinner ladies need support to get school meals healthier”.
Young people at the Crannog East project questioned the claim that school meals are getting healthier. One of them summed this up as follows: “It’s not getting healthier at all. The burgers are full of fat. More coke and unhealthy drinks than healthy drinks. Hardly any water – all coke and irn bru and fanta”.
Young people at the Crannog Central project are skeptical about whether young people will make healthy choices: “If people were given fruit they wouldn’t eat it, same with salads. They would maybe eat vegetables. I don’t care about healthy food. I still like chips and plain cheese sandwiches.”
Young people at the Xplore project in Dundee questioned the move towards healthier food – one person said: “I disagree they are getting healthier, we did get snacks such as baked potato but they were packed with mayonnaise and cheese. We only get a small portion of homemade soup when its available”.