In a seeming attempt to implode the abstract concept of irony, Alex Reid, better known as Jordan’s tabloid fluffer, was speaking– and I am NOT making this up- to MPs at an all party group about the impact children’s diets have on their ability to concentrate:
Mr Reid, ex-husband of celebrity Katie Price, said he wanted supermarkets, banks and big business to fund free, healthy school meals for all children.
He said pupils were eating chocolate and crisps which were “affecting their ability to concentrate in lessons”
See? I’m not making it up. I COULD NOT WRITE THIS IF I INHALED LAUGHING GAS.
Mr Reid told MPs about plans to raise £1 billion by offering companies promotional opportunities, including direct marketing to parents, in return for investment in a scheme called Let’s Do Lunch.
Which is exactly the sort of hideous name you can imagine a bunch of stockbrokers coming up with as a beard for turning schools into workhouses.
|The new Minister for Universities|
So, in return for all that free stuff (which, as you know, companies are famously interested in doing) they get to use schools, and parental databases as advertising hoardings. And that, my pugilistic friend, is where we part company. Schools might run on money, but that doesn’t mean they’re businesses, or should be. Kids are already crushed by the artificial aspirations and rank demands of a world dripping with adverts, that sees children as lenient, unsophisticated hosts for their margins. Schools, one might hope, are the last haven from this sorcery.
I don’t know who ‘Let’s Do Lunch’ are, who backs them, or even where their website is. But I have a better idea: how about they prove they really give a shit about healthy eating for kids and GIVE money to schools to provide better catering? Oh, and how about Members of Parliament let me know what the criteria is to come in and ‘consult’ with them, because brother, I really want to know. I have some very advanced opinions about the role that Dark Matter plays in the formation of neutrinos in the heart of binary stars. I mean, I know fuck all about it, but hey, Alex Reid and School Dinners, right?
|The Shape of Things to Come|
I mean, has Jamie Oliver been hit by a bus? His Dream School might have been a well-meant misfire, but you cannot argue with his rhetoric on school food. In an era when the average cost price of a school dinner is about half a jam jar, he was bang on when he pointed out that kids deserve better than reconstituted lips and assholes, puréed, pressed, bread crumbed and deep-fried. His School Dinners campaign was an enormous success, and a real testimony to the power of one, as his campaign snowballed to the extent that ministers couldn’t be seen NOT to agree with it, so potent was its intuitive moral truth. Of course, Michael Gove has exempted Academies (ie soon to be most schools) from the healthy eating provisions that were brought in subsequent to the Essex guzzler’s march on Downing Street. His argument so far has been- and correct me if I err- that ‘I haven’t seen any evidence that academies will provide worse standards of food- if anything I have seen evidence that they are just as good’, or words to that effect.
Of course this is cunning so acute you could rob a bank with it. There IS no evidence yet, because the whole academies program is so new. And such evidence would be painstaking to collect, and any meaningful studies won’t take place for a long time anyway (by which time the political will is dispersed), so the call to ‘prove it’ is a hard one to answer. So instead let us suggest the following a priori proposition: removing the requirement to serve healthy food that might cost a little more, will probably NOT mean more schools volunteering to break their backs to provide it. Call me a cynic. But there it is.
Or do we think large, cash strapped institutions will perpetually act out of altruism AND prioritise healthy lunches over the cheap and cheerless options, when so many other things have to be paid for?
If you think that, your optimism batteries are more fully charged than mine. So: reduced healthy criteria for schools, or Poundshop Rocky’s attempt to turn schools into billboards. I’m not sure which one I can digest less.