Love Jamie & Leon: date or school dinner?

How can you improve school food? Turns out as a parent you can do nothing and then one day you’ll be asked by Leon – that wonderful chain of delicious food that I’ve only been able to afford to visit once – to give some feedback about how to make school dinners better via the School Food Plan. For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children see, or


Fancy a nice stick insect in your lunch box? No, thought not.

A few years ago I made a terrible mistake with my daughter Lola’s packed lunch. I sent her to school with a healthy lunch instead of using the school dinners (this was in the turkey twizzler times and before free school meals for all primary school children in Islington). That day Lola also had to hand over a similar-sized tupperware container of 5cm long Indian stick insects to the nursery classroom. Unfortunately the labels were dislodged and she managed to mix up the boxes…

…And so at lunch time Lola opened up a box of stick insects. It looked as if mega insects were her dish of the day.

Cue mad screaming from a table of seven year olds. And from all the kids having lunch in the hall.

Fortunately the three stick insects were not hurt in the melee, and eventually ended up in a suitable lidded and well-ventilated container in the Nursery.

Nightmare lunch

Unfortunately the teaching assistant assigned to locate Lola’s real lunch (which by then the school had worked out must be inside the tupperware container in the nursery) opened it up and gave a shriek. Wriggling over the tasty houmus sandwich and apple slices were little white caterpillars.

Only my daughter realised that these were moth larvae. She was also the only one to realise that they must have  hatched out fast in the warmth of the Nursery, emerging from the dried raisin box that I’d assumed she’d eat as a lunchtime treat. She wasn’t scared of the wriggly caterpillars, but she certainly reveled in making yet another person in the school scream.

Of course the unlucky teaching assistant was appalled by Lola’s neglectful mother and sent a stroppy note home about how I shouldn’t send the kids to school with “maggots in their lunch boxes”.

What’s for dinner?
Every time I see a magazine cooking spread with lush pictures of chocolate covered locusts or crispy fried ants  – billing insects as the new healthy protein-filled snacks I think about that mix-up day and laugh. Insects on the school menu – not a chance.

But now I’ve heard that Leon is taking up where lovely Jamie Oliver left off and are trying to find ways to improve school food. There’s a 2-min youtube video here which shows how working with Department of Education, Leon are taking a temperature take of where we are now. Below is a list of where they are hunting for the best ideas. Maybe you’ll be lucky and you’ll get an invite – or an  opportunity to participate – too.

School Food Plan roadshow…

Leeds, David Young Community Academy – Thursday, 14 February 2013

Manchester, East Manchester Academy – Monday, 25 February 2013

Newcastle, Benfield School – Monday, 4 March 2013

Bristol, Redland Green School – Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Norwich, Ormiston Victory Academy – Friday, 15 March 2013

Birmingham, Hillcrest School – Thursday, 21 March 2013

London, Grey Coat Hospital CofE School – Monday, 25 March 2013

Over to you

How do you deal with school lunches – pack your own or let your kids risk the queues so they get a shared experience? And what would make your school’s lunches into fun but nutritious fast food?

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7 Comments on “Love Jamie & Leon: date or school dinner?”

  1. This post made me laugh so much, it’s hilarious. All credit to your clever daughter recognising moth larvae. I’m not really sure what my kids’ school lunches are like – maybe schools should invite parents’ in to try them.

    • homemadekids Says:

      Thanks Gretta! As a parent governor I’m encouraged to eat school dinners and do occasionally at secondary school. They’re OK, but lots of the students say the choice constricts too fast as the last classes come into the dining hall. i’m sorry to say that at primary school I cut my campaigning teeth – as a fussy-eating 9yo – by leading a rebellion over the school lunches provided at a local restaurant, which I felt served us foul-smelling brown stew muck. The result: for the next two years everyone at the school were served soup and rolls, which was OK, but it does put you off soup. Even Oliver Twist would have resisted seconds…

  2. homemadekids Says:

    From Facebook: Anyone else ever put stick insects into their child’s (or their own) lunchbox? Accidentally.

    Matt No, but I did once put a child in the stick insect’s lunchbox 😐

    Vicki Not sure

  3. homemadekids Says:

    More from facebook
    Jon: Er no. Did you think it was a Twiglet?

    Sandra This really made me laugh – and feel better about my parenting failure last night which was to forget to turn into the tooth fairy

    Nicola – it’s so easily done, last time I forgot (ie, it’s happened more than once why do kids have so many teeth?) I helped my child look for the tooth with coin in hand and pushed it into the pillow case. She eventually found this and allowed me to think she thought it was from the toothfairy…

  4. This was so funny! I don’t have to make pack lunches because we homeschool so I guess I’m missing out on this fun part of parenting 😉

    • homemadekids Says:

      Hi My Tropical Home, thanks for the comment! Homeschooling is a lot of hard work – but it probably manages to escape the crazy rush in the morning to get your child/ren off to school in uniform/with extra kit/lunches etc. I’ve even heard of kids sleeping in their uniform to save families time/trouble in the morning! Nicola

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