Healthy family eating? It’s up to the kids, now

“The child is father of the man,” said the famous poet. And I think this quote says it all when it comes to the impact that school food can have – and is starting to have – on modern family life.

If you’re about my vintage (give or take!) you’ll remember those classic TV ads like the OXO series. Remember the mums, dads and kids all seated around the family meal table? Dad carving up the roast, Mum dishing out the veg, and everybody tucking in to a wholesome meal together.

A few years ago I conducted some research involving 600 or so London secondary students. The results helped us build a detailed picture of what these kids were eating and when they were eating it – every day for a complete week, early morning to bed time.

It confirmed what I guess we already knew – that the landscape had changed. Massively. What a totally different world it had become, many families without even a dining table, let alone a dining room.

No-one’s to blame for that – it’s just how things have evolved. In the Oxo advert days, most British families were living OK on one income, with Mum spending most of her day in the kitchen, preparing and serving wholesome family meals.

Today, most parents would find it just about impossible to run a household on a single wage. Both partners work because the mortgage must be paid. So for the majority of families, that act of sitting down together around a family table is a non-starter.

In many homes now it’s more of a ‘grab what you can where you can’ approach, along the lines of throwing a pizza in the oven, or a slice of bread into the toaster. And look at us now, as a nation. Bigger, fatter and far less healthy than we’ve ever been.

That’s a bleak picture I’ve painted, so you might be asking why it is I’m so upbeat about the future.

It’s because of what my teams see day in and day out, in UK schools where we’re working. Young people choosing and enjoying great food. Talking about it. And taking their experience of our school menus and recipes into their homes to tell their parents.

Masterchef, Jamie Oliver and all those TV chefs are helping to create a real ‘it’s cool to cook’ vibe which encourages kids to download apps like Cucina’s Top Banana and have a go at cooking in their own homes.

So picture this then…. Kids putting meals they’ve cooked in front of their parents! Do you see my earlier point about the poet? Kids can show the way back. For me, that’s our hope, and it really does make me excited and positive about the future.


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