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Ban takeaways near schools says Salford council

Late on Wed 29th May a story broke in the world of obesity. I know that it was late breaking news because Andy and I were woken by a call from BBC Breakfast, shortly before midnight, to ask if I would appear on the sofa the next morning. Aside from the fact I was in a coma, the logistics of getting from Wales to Manchester would have meant travelling through the night and BBC would not want me without a shower or beauty sleep!

It wasn’t until the next morning that I found out what the story was – Salford council are proposing to ban takeaways near schools from selling “hot food over the counter” before 5pm – allegedly to encourage children to eat healthily.

Perhaps recognising that this would be a vote loser among existing takeaway owners, the ban is proposed to affect new outlets opened within 400m of a school.

Councillor Margaret Morris said that “public health and helping to reduce obesity levels” was a “top priority” for the council. The council is planning to encourage takeaways to offer well promoted healthy alternatives.

What would I have said on the sofa?

There are a number of points that could be made about this story:

1) Councillors should stick to running councils and leave obesity to people who know something about this.

2) Why pick on takeaways? When I’m in my nearest town, Caldicot, I see more children locally in newsagents, off licenses and the post office – buying sweets and soft drinks – than I do buying the relatively more expensive fish and chips or in the pie shop. Three of the the biggest advertisers are Coca-Cola, Mars and Walkers – that’s what kids are after near the school gates.

3) Surely children up to the age of sixth form (I have no idea what these new year numbers are) are not allowed off the premises to visit takeaways at lunchtime? In which case, this applies to the top two years – 16-18 year olds. This group of young people can drive half way through this age group – a) this means they can go anywhere to get junk and b) it means we have to start trusting them to make their own decisions. Students who stay on past GCSEs can vote at some stage in their final year of school. Is Salford planning a region where their A Level students can choose their Prime Minister, but not their next meal?

If under 16s have money and freedom to buy takeaways on the way home from school (4-5pm period) then there’s not much the council or schools can do about this. Perhaps if they had better teaching about what healthy eating is and a better school lunch, they wouldn’t want a takeaway or a Mars Bar on the way home.

This brings me on to what my main point would have been…

Salford school lunches

Salford school lunches are provided centrally, so the menu is also posted centrally on the internet.

You will probably find your own school’s menu on line – they seem to be proud of what they are providing, which beggars belief.

If you click on the link you will be able to download a word file with a three week menu timetable. Here’s Week 1:


Week 1 Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday

Fun Day Friday

Main Meal

Choice 1

Pork Meatballs in Tomato and Herb Sauce with Penne Pasta and Crusty Bread

Chicken and Sweet Potato Tikka Masala with Patna Rice and Naan Bread

Roast British Turkey with Sage and Onion Stuffing, Gravy, Roast Potatoes, Carrots and Broccoli

Homemade Hawaiian Pizza with Oven Baked Potato Wedges, Salad and Coleslaw

Gammon & Pineapple with Baked Beans or Garden Peas and Oven Baked Chips

Main Meal Choice 2

Homemade Cheese Quiche with Oven Baked Herby Diced Potatoes and Salad or Baked Beans

Breaded Salmon Fillet with Farmhouse Vegetables and Sauté Potatoes

Homemade Meat and Potato Pie with Carrots

Tomato and Vegetable Pasta Bake with Garlic Bread and Salad

Fish Fingers with Garden Peas or Baked Beans, and Oven Baked Chips

Cold Choice

A selection of freshly made sandwiches/wraps served with choice from salad bar and soup or Fairtrade orange cuplet

Jacket Potato

Jacket Potato with a choice of two fillings and salad bar selection

Sweet Treats

Chocolate Crunch and Vanilla Sauce

Iced Sponge Slice

Ice Cream Tub

Oaty Apple Crumble and Custard

Butterfly Cup Cake

Sweet Treats

Abbey Biscuit served with fresh fruit

Flapjack served with fresh fruit

Cherry Viennese Biscuit served with Strawberry Milkshake

Lemon Cookie served with fresh fruit

Homemade Biscuit served with fresh fruit

Sweet Treats

Selection of fresh fruits and low fat yoghurts


You can look at weeks 2 and 3 – the contents are very similar – starch, starch and more starch. Below each menu is a note that “Wholemeal bread must be available daily.” More starch.

In week 1, main meal options include: quiche and chips (and baked beans) for Monday; Indian takeaway on Tuesday; pie and potatoes for Wednesday; pizza and chips on Thursday and fish and chips (and baked beans) on “Fun day Friday”. Only they don’t call the meals what I’ve called them. This is how Salford lunch providers try to make their meals seem healthy:

Monday’s quiche and chips is described as “Homemade Cheese Quiche with Oven Baked Herby Diced Potatoes and Salad or Baked Beans.”

Tuesday’s Indian takeaway is “Chicken and Sweet Potato Tikka Masala with Patna Rice and Naan Bread.”

Wednesday’s pie and potatoes is “Homemade Meat and Potato Pie with Carrots.”

Thursday’s pizza and chips is “Homemade Hawaiian Pizza with Oven Baked Potato Wedges, Salad and Coleslaw.”

Friday’s fish and chips is “Fish Fingers with Garden Peas or Baked Beans, and Oven Baked Chips.”

The other weeks are no better of course. The days that don’t have chips have pasta and/or bread  – the latter always being available.

“Fun day Friday” week 2 has two options: a) a breaded chicken burger with chips or b) sausage roll, baked beans and chips.

Homemade is worthy of a PR company – pizza is pizza and pie is pie. Don’t give me oven baked nonsense either – chips are chips whether they are baked on vegetable oil or fried in vegetable oil.

OK, if the sixth former went out for fish and chips, s/he would probably get a larger portion (actually, s/he’d probably just buy the chips – fish in batter is expensive). At school, however, there is a daily choice of two desserts – called “sweet treats”. That will be the junk segment on the government eatbadly plate being followed. Overall, therefore, the school dinner pupil could get more junk than the takeaway visitor.

“Sweet treats” are: chocolate crunch with vanilla sauce or biscuit with fruit on Monday; cake or flapjack with fruit on Tuesday; ice cream or biscuit with a milkshake for Wednesday; crumble and custard or biscuit with fruit on Thursday and then cake or biscuit with fruit on “Fun day Friday”.

Week 3 choices are more pasta, more bread, more chips, more potatoes, more cakes, more biscuits, more milkshakes, more puddings…

And Salford council wonder why 35% of 10 and 11-year-olds in Salford are overweight or obese.

Salford council needs to stop trying to grab media headlines with an empty stunt like this and take a serious look at their own menus – if they genuinely want to do something about obesity in their area.

15 thoughts on “Ban takeaways near schools says Salford council

  • This makes me so mad. My son is starting school this September and is therefore going to be part of the first year of ‘free school dinners for all’, because, the government claims, ‘it is healthier than a packed lunch’. My daughter, who is eight, currently takes a packed lunch consisting of a sandwich on wholemeal bread, with a healthy filling, two pieces of fruit, and some full fat, no added sugar, natural yogurt with her for her lunch. No crisps. No fizzy drinks. No chocolate/cakes/biscuits. Yet the meal being offered by the school is pizza and chips. Fish fingers and chips. veggie burger and… chips. With a pudding every day, pretty much like the ones you describe in this article.

    I will continue to provide packed lunches for my daughter, and will more than likely take my son out of the scheme and give him a packed lunch after the first half term. But I’m letting him have the school meal initially as all his friends are, and he would have to sit on his own away from his friends with the other half a dozen or so children with a packed lunch at dinner time, making him upset and prevent him settling into his new school well.

    IT makes me so angry.

  • Zoe have you read Wheat Belly by Dr Davis? I have been wheat free for 6 months and have dropped about 35 lbs in weight. I no longer need to take insulin for my type 2 diabetes which was diagnosed last September. I eat rice, potatoes, 100% rye bread but no wheat breads, pizza or pasta.

    • Hi Stephen – I have indeed! Great book – our house has been wheat free for years now!
      Terrific results – nice one!
      Best wishes – Zoe

  • I don’t believe it is possible or that we should ‘control’ what our children eat.

    Education, education and more education – we need to inform our kids of today about what ‘real’ food is. How it can benefit our bodies externally (teenagers especially are always interested in how they look) and the not so obvious negative health implications of too much fast food and an unhealthy diet.

    Councils yes get involved – allocate money to schools giving them the opportunity to bring in qualified health professionals for seminars, chiefs for fun cooking lessons and whatever it takes to empower children of all ages to acquire the knowledge and practical ability to have a healthier diet.

    Christina Symeonides FNTP
    (Nutritionist and a mother)

  • If I had the choice between a MacDonalds quarter pounder and fries, or sausage roll, beans and chips, I’d go for the McD. Are sausage rolls poor food only when bought from Greggs and since when was 4ozs lean steak junk? People hold very bizarre views on food. Cup cakes are fine so long as they are made by middle class people on a BBC baking programme, yet Crispy Creme donuts, essentially containing the same ingredients, are poison.

  • I had occasion to check out the menus at my former primary school this past week. The school website proudly tells me that it is a “Healthy School”, and that “sweets and chocolate are not allowed in school”, along with fizzy drinks. Initially cautiously impressed, I chose to read the menus – these, of course, pertain to all the schools in our County where school meals are provided. Without fail, there is a pudding every day, such as “marble cake with chocolate sauce”, or “mini iced bun” or “cracknell finger”. Only on one day did I see yogurt/jelly (and unless both are sugar free, that’s not brilliant either). Pasta was a mainstay, and salad (and I have nothing against salad itself) was served with everything, even the roast dinners! I don’t see the point in that at all. I don’t believe many families at home would serve salad with roast beef and gravy, after all. The “homemade” whitewash was used a lot, too – “homemade shortbread fingers”, or “homemade mini naan breads”. At the bottom of the menu pages, it said that brown bread HAD to be available at all times. Why? Chips were served once a week with the inevitable fish dish on a Friday. There are always vegetarian choices of course, but not what I would call good ones – lots of pastry-based dishes. On reading Paul’s post, I was transported back to the lunches at this particular primary school when I was a pupil – it is a relief to know that I wasn’t the only one suffering that awful liver and over-boiled cabbage! We never had things like fish fingers, burgers or pizzas, either – I don’t recall even seeing a pizza until I was about 13, and burgers weren’t at all common. The mashed potato served at school was most definitely the reconstituted kind, and I’ve harboured a hatred of the stuff ever since. The cooks would use ice cream scoops to serve it, aim it at your plate and fire! Disgusting! I could never eat a prune again, either – they used to serve tinned prunes with custard – vile. And don’t get me started on semolina! It always had a strange, vaguely orange flavoued gel-like substance over the top of it, and I never worked out what it was, or why it was there.

    • Ah Catherine – Semolina and mashed potatoes with that ice cream scoop – you’ve transported me back to another world! I was slim then though! It wasn’t until I was old enough to help myself to sugary cereal ad libitum and biscuits similarly and was allowed past the end of the cul-de-sac (i.e. my explorable territory then included a sweet shop with Pink Panthers for 2p and caramac to die for) – that’s when I started getting porky! It wasn’t until I tried to diet that I really gained weight, however! The things I’ve learned!
      Best wishes – Zoe

  • Last week I would have looked at that menu and believed it was okay. It wasn’t too bad. All that ‘herb crust’ stuff to throw me off I would have said it was a great way to eat. Then I read a book by a guy called Sean who mentions you in it and the work you do and my eyes have been opened. I am only just getting to grips with starch being the problem. I am hoping finally I have the answer to why despite not eating much I am still gaining weight and despite exercise why I never seem to lose much weight. Now I can look at the menu at my sons school with a fresh pair of eyes. Looking forward to reading your books Zoe.

  • When I was at school in the 1970s, the starch choices were almost as awful as the meat choices. There was no rice, it being ‘forrin’, but there were potatoes – boiled ones. As children, we would avoid them. Pig’s liver and boiled cabbage was the dish of the day, and the only starch would be, perhaps, some sponge pudding. But we had already had a 1/3rd pint of whole milk earlier in the morning until the milk-snatcher took it away and schools installed drinks vending machines.

    Vegetables were always boiled, and invariably dull. Potatoes, as the main starch, was never served as chips, or even mashed as mashed potatoes called for butter (more likely margarine), which made it more expensive, so they weren’t popular. Although when meat was served, it would be a cheap cut like liver, there was always a good chunk on a your plate, and was slightly more bearable than those boiled potatoes. The only other starch was perhaps a pie-topping, but I think this was rare.

    Such things as pizza and burgers appeared in the 1980s when schools moved over to cafeteria style meals when children were actually given a choice of food to eat (boy, they were spoiled) as those before them were only given one choice, and anyone silly enough to be a vegetarian only got the boiled cabbage. Clearly, school meals moved from labour-intensive ‘meat and two veg’ to ‘a large quantity of starch with some meat flavouring’.

    The combination of cheaper ingredients, less skill needed to cook it, and fewer food safety issues, became an irresistible draw for schools. The REAL problem comes with the nutritional guidelines that vilify saturated fat, and thus all forms of meat.

    A bit of a perfect storm, but give them their due, at one point we too believed the myth that carbs were the least dangerous alternative. Education is what is needed, but it is sad is that more education is what schools need….

    And you know what? I don’t think we were EVER given bread at lunchtime.

    Still, that liver!

  • This is very similar to the school meals my son gets at his primary school – loads of starch and very little protein. I’m ashamed to say I’m lazy and make him have it 2 days a week on the days I’m at work.

    Added to this, though, is the fact that he has to take fruit as a snack every day too. (Well, or veg, so he does have a carrot sometimes instead, but I wouldn’t make him do that every day.) I would love to be able to give him a hard-boiled egg or some cheese or some cold meat instead, but that’s not allowed, even though it would fill him up more.

    Of course, he’s not allowed eggs, or nuts, at school anyway, since some children are allergic. I do have to wonder how on earth the vegetarians manage!

    • Hi Anna – many thanks for sharing this. I don’t think you’re lazy – you’re a working mum and doing your bit at breakfast, dinner and lunches on non-work days. You should be able to trust that the school will give your child plenty of real food during the hours that they are ‘in charge’. Much as I disliked my school dinners, they were healthy. I remember liver and onions one day, fish (not in batter) on Fridays, roast beef and veg another day, roast chicken or chicken casserole was another day. No bread available at all times! No 5-a-day nonsense – just – the sooner you eat your lunch the sooner you can go out and play! Pasta, pizza and burgers were never on the menu!

      As for the ‘not allowed’ bit for things that you want to give your own child – I don’t know where to start! Maybe farmers need to stand more as school governors and educate some people!

      Best wishes – Zoe

  • ” Councillors should stick to running councils and leave [whatever-it-is] to people who know something about this.”

    :-D should be on a bronze plaque in EVERY city hall in the world….

  • Yeah, I looked at my daughter’s school lunch (Stockport) a few months ago and I’m pretty disappointed. It’s obviously done on the cheap, so heavy on cheap ingredients i.e. pasta, bread, potatoes, vegetable oil and not a lot of meat (and I’m sure the meat is from cheap sources).

    At least my daughter is allergic to cow’s milk, so she can’t have the cheese-containing things or the manufactured puddings. Although this restricts her choices, it does mean that she can’t have, for example, the “pizza + wedges” option and has to have fruit for pudding.

    School lunches are not a cornerstone of nutrition but I tolerate it on the basis that:
    1) her mother will put worse stuff in a packed lunch than they give her
    2) I’ll feed her properly at home

    God help the kids for which this is their best meal they get in a day!

  • “Start ’em young” and then wonder why there is an obesity epidemic. Don’t forget that they get the “healthy” option of fruit, and what we will see at the end of the week is vast amounts of rotting fruit being thrown away and them running out of puddings. And the food suppliers going back and complaining that no one wants fruit so to save money, it should be dropped as an option.
    Even though I can’t eat fruit, I see no reason why they can’t drop all the puddings and “sweet treats” and only supply fruit as off the tree/bush/plant. If children “need” something sweet, they can at least have something recognisable as food (although my school dinners were actually cooked from scratch and totally delicious. Apart from the swirl of plastic cream. So I don’t want to have a go at anyone actually cooking the food).
    I saw an epic fail on YouTube last night. A aldy was making Macaroni salad. She started with a tin of condensed milk, a load of sugar and macaroni. It was marked as being unhealthy because of all the fat. *sigh*

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