Tuesday's Letters: Stop worrying about nutritional value of children's lunches

ACCORDING to a study conducted at Leeds University, only 1.1 per cent of school lunch boxes meet the nutritional standards for school lunches, and this is regarded as a national disaster.

However, if we examine the evidence, it is clear that it really is time we stopped worrying about the nutritional quality of the food children eat at lunch time (Yorkshire Post, January 12).

The latest National Health Survey for England found that the health of school children was rated as good/very good for 94 per cent. There has actually been an improvement since the survey was started in 1995.

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These results demonstrate that there is no basis for the current

concern about the health and diet of school children.

As a consequence, the Government has introduced standards to control the nutritional content of school lunches. It has also established the School Food Trust to assist with the implementation of these standards.

This is a typical example of how the Government responds to media hype and completely ignores its own research which demonstrates that there is absolutely no need for any official action.

In my opinion, there is no need for:

n The nutritional standards which have created enormous problems for school caterers who are now required to keep detailed records of the food and ingredients used in the preparation of school lunches and then calculate the nutritional composition.

n The School Food Trust which is just a waste of public money and a quango that should be top of the list for the chop.

n Statements from Prue Leith and others instructing parents what they should be feeding their children.

Even if there is a problem with the nutrition of children, it will certainly not be addressed by concentrating on school lunches, which account for less than 20 per cent of the total food intake, allowing for holidays and weekends.

In fact, the National Health Survey shows that between 2001 and 2007, the average number of fruit and vegetable portions consumed by all children has increased from 2.5 to 3.3. This result demonstrates conclusively that the nutritional quality of the food eaten by children has been improving very steadily and substantially.

Furthermore, these improvements had been well established long before all the current concern had been initiated.

From: Verner Wheelock, Verner Wheelock Associates, Broughton Hall Business Park, Skipton.

From: Richard Longthorp, LKL Farming, Burland, Holme Road, Howden, Goole.

ONCE again, the quality of food being served in schools is in the news with reports that the contents of the majority of the food contained in lunch boxes being taken into schools fall short of the nutritional standards for school meals.

One solution to this surely has to be to make school meals appeal to a greater number of children, thus encouraging them to purchase a hot lunch from the school's caterers.

A possible reason as to why the numbers of children taking a school meal is in decline could be the restriction placed on the frequency with which sausages are served, which currently stands at once a fortnight.

The pig industry levy body in the UK, BPEX, recently undertook a survey of school caterers and found that when sausages were served, 12 per cent more children took a school meal.

This increase would not only provide valuable additional income to school caterers but also help to reduce the subsidy paid by council tax payers into the school meals service.

Royal Mail fighting a losing battle

From: MT Hill, Waingate, Linthwaite, Huddersfield.

I WOULD like to make a comment regarding Michael Green's letter (Yorkshire Post, January 4) concerning the Royal Mail and the recent price increases in postage.

The large users of the Royal Mail, firms, etc, were, in fact, subsidising the public to a certain extent. By sending out hundreds, sometimes thousands, of letters at a time, they helped to keep down the cost of postage that the public paid to send an item anywhere in the country, from London to the north of Scotland.

The problem now is that the Government gave licences to companies to also run a mail service. Instead of giving a service to every household, company, etc, these new mail companies are not geared up to offer that service. They prefer to deliver to companies in town centres, where they can deliver a bundle at a time.

They have a contract that allows them access to Royal Mail where they take the remaining mail for the RM to deliver. It has been published several times (including in the Yorkshire Post) that as part of their licence, the RM could only charge 13p per letter.

If these so-called cherry-pickers were made to offer the same nationwide service, most of these private mail companies would go out of business.

Please don't take my word for it, check your mail for about two to

three weeks and see how many envelopes come through your door with private company frankings on, each delivered by your local post person.

The Royal Mail is operating with one hand tied behind its back.

Well done all you posties for your performance in the bad weather.

Well done, Mr Speaker

From: Michael Booth, The Birches, Bramhope, Leeds.

WHEN John Bercow was appointed Speaker of the House of Commons, I had no strong feelings as I hadn't heard of him. Shortly afterwards, as a traditionalist, I was disappointed in his refusal to wear the uniform of the Speaker, but that wasn't the end of the world. But now, having read Jonathan Reed's article (Yorkshire Post, January 15), I applaud Mr Bercow loud and long. So far as I am aware, he is the only MP who has had the courage to stand up and tell us all of the "rectification procedure" whereby an MP who has been found unjustifiably claiming expenses can admit that his claims had been wrong and then quietly pay them back without anything further being said.

Mr Bercow promises to speak to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner in an effort to ensure that such matters are not hidden and forgotten, but to ensure "greater transparency".

It was like a breath of fresh air reading Mr Bercow's statements. He appears to have the same opinion as myself and, I suggest, most of the populace – that these expenses claims should be open to public scrutiny in order that we may make our own judgment as to our MPs' integrity at the next election.

I believe that expenses should be paid as reimbursement of any

necessary expense incurred in the furtherance of the claimant's employment, and then only after production of a receipt. If that principle was rigidly applied, I don't think anyone would grumble.

I applaud Mr Speaker for his efforts. If he was in my constituency, he would have my vote.

Seeking order in the House

From: Coun John Pennington, West Riddlesden Hall, Keighley.

I'M tired. When will someone get a grip on MPs' expenses?

Sir Ian Kennedy (Yorkshire Post, January 8)) is right to seek a "clean break with the past" yet seems unable to do so owing to conflicting ideas for reform.

The vast majority of MPs work hard for the people they represent. Pay them an attractive, taxable salary on par with leaders of industry, allow them to live how and where they wish and staff constituency offices with whoever they deem best.

Provide mid-range overnight accommodation in a purpose-built MPs' hotel (MPH) with modest refreshment facilities for those who represent constituencies more than 30 miles radius from the House.

Scrap expense claims totally, save money by disbanding the Fees Office and simplify budgeting.

Hard to justify a big increase in house building

From: John Fisher, Mount Bark Farm, Menwith Hill, Harrogate.

THE Government's decision to continue to build houses regardless of a proven public demand is another example of the increasing mismatch between what the public want and what the Government thinks the people should have.

For some time, we have seen builders improve sales by accepting the unsold houses of potential buyers as a trade-in, rather like a second-hand car.

If houses were genuinely in short supply, these traded-in houses could have been quickly sold by their owners.

This was one of many other signs that the housing market was being manipulated to sustain a building boom and increased house sales.

I am convinced that much of the sales on recent new developments were generated by people moving from areas that were becoming unpopular, hence the need for developers to accept the unsold houses as a trade-in.

With the exception of some small areas of the country, the birth rate in Britain has declined steadily, reducing the needs for more housing.

This has been counteracted by government information stating that more housing was required because of the increased divorce rate, people living longer, etc.

With many recent developments still unsold, it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify a huge increase in house building.

The thought of a population of 70 million in this already overcrowded country faced with future energy, food and water shortages not to mention possibly increasing social unrest is dire.

Sadly, we have a government which appears to prefer spending huge amounts of time and money solving self-inflicted problems rather than preventing them with factual information and common sense.

Curb call for birds of prey

From: D Armitage, Borrowby, Thirsk, North Yorkshire.

RE the letter from Kate Humble of the RSPB (Yorkshire Post, December 30) about birds of prey.

I have earned my living in the countryside for the last 60 years, and in no way would I encourage anyone to break the law. But, eventually, birds of prey will need to be controlled or they will take out (kill or eat) a vast a number of small birds.

Birds of prey have no predator in nature. They will only be controlled in numbers when there is a shortage of little birds to feed on.

The RSPB is not only a body for the protection of birds of prey; it includes, I understand, all birds.

Theatre of the absurd

From: Gerald Hodgson, Spennithorne, Leyburn.

NICK Ahad tells us that the refurbishment of the Crucible Theatre, in Sheffield, has cost 15m and adds "some may wonder where all the money

has gone" (Yorkshire Post, January 11).

He is certainly right there. I am amazed at the wanton extravagance that can lavish such a sum on cosmetic improvements to a small theatre. Perhaps, more astonishingly, the refurbishment of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden cost 214m.

Do public authorities lose all sense of value for money where arts projects are concerned? Does nobody do a cost/benefit analysis?

I suggest that the Crucible Theatre should have been given a budget of 1.5m and told to do the best they could with it. We cannot afford such a profligate waste of public funds.