An uninspiring white bread sandwich, a packet of crisps, and a fizzy drink conjure up a rather depressing image. But is this what a typical packed lunch looks like for nursery-age children?
Whether you are a nursery, childminder, or school, we want to know how many settings and children are using meals brought from home, and what you are doing to make sure these are as healthy as possible.
And with the advent of the 30 hours of funded childcare packed lunches look likely to become more common, as parents opt out of paying for extras, such as meals.
When Nursery World and the Children’s Food Trust carried out a survey in 2015, we found that just under a third of settings were planning to ask parents to provide packed lunches once the 30 hours came in.
‘Children from the poorest families are likely to be the worst affected,’ says Dr Patricia Lucas, a reader in child health research, from the University of Bristol, who is carrying out the research.
‘Settings supporting these children are faced with the choice of continuing to provide meals from within their limited budgets, charging parents for food or asking them to provide packed lunches for their children - so incurring costs that many families can ill afford.
‘Whatever option they choose, the quality of children’s diet is likely to be compromised, and there is a potential for health inequalities to increase.’
A survey carried out by researchers from the University of Bristol two years ago with the help of students from Bristol City College found that a typical lunch for a child in a group care setting did indeed include a white bread cheese sandwich, potato snacks, and a sweetened yoghurt.
But is this the case nationwide? Let us know how typical these findings are by taking part in our survey.
We are particularly keen to know why you might be choosing to use packed lunches for some or all of your children, and to hear from childminders.
We will report the findings in Nursery World.
Fill in the online survey here
- Read more about the research in ‘Pack it in?’ in Nursery World, 18 September - 1 October).