Let Them Eat Free School Meals: Why Parents’ Frustrations Are Not All About The Cake

let them eat cake When Marie Antoinette pronounced, “Let them eat cake”, she must have been utterly perplexed at the bad feeling it caused.

People were poor, some were struggling to feed themselves. So she offered to help. She offered them cake for God’s sake – what’s to moan about?

I wonder if Nick Clegg would also feel perplexed, were he to log on to the comments made by Mumsnetters in response to a recent Mumsnet guest post about free school meals.

Nick Clegg and the experts who advise him have seen that people are struggling, seen that some find it hard to provide a nutritious meal for their children, and have seen universal benefits take a bit of a battering lately.

What better way to help the electorate than to say, “Let all children aged 4 – 7 eat free school meals”. It helps families, children, and society as a whole assumably. Brilliant.

Initially I was over the moon about the announcements. Here are some reasons why:

  • I am not adverse to universal benefits, in principle.
  • I have two children at infant school. Making packed lunches each and every day is a bit of a faff.
  • Our school is rather amazing to be honest. The meals look pretty balanced and the teachers let you know if the kids aren’t eating that well.
  • My kids are pretty amazing too and eat the veg and the fruit on offer, as well as the stodge and the cake and the ice-cream.
  • I am not adverse to my kids eating a bit of stodge and cake and ice-cream. They have a great diet so the odd treat here and there as part of a school dinner does not worry me.
  • We are not struggling financially but do have to keep an eye on food and utility bills. Every little helps.

This really is a wonderful gesture from not only the government, but every tax payer in the land. Yet it is starting to irk me. Why? I mean, seriously, my children are right this moment benefitting from that thing there is no such thing as: the free lunch.

It’s becoming painfully clear, with my role of lunch provider removed, I am  becoming just a bored middle class house wife with boring middle class problems.

In my defence, like the French Revolution being more complicated than cake, I think my frustrations at the policy are more complicated than free school meals.

What is actually so irksome is the inference, intended or otherwise, that 99 out of 100 parents are incapable of providing a nutritious meal for their kids*. What is also rather irksome is the idea that an offsite caterer cares more and is more able to provide that nutritious meal than parents.

We are told that being poor means we can’t cook, and if we are better off we don’t bother.

We are told by this increasingly out of touch Westminster, surrounding itself with ‘experts’ rather than the electorate, that they know better than us what our kids need.

We are told it is all done in the interests of our children. But how do they know when they didn’t ask us?

While the cake, or the free school meal, might be a nice token gesture that we would be fools to turn down, it does not take away the fact that your opinion of us as parents is insulting.

That’s what irks.



As an aside, I realise given world events, plus the upcoming vote in Scotland, that this post may seem rather insignificant.

I realise you are, MPs, working really hard at a thankless task just trying to do what you and your ‘experts’ believe to be the best.

So, to support you, to buoy you up, to give you a hand in these difficult times, I’d just like to let you know that 99/100 people I speak to think you are doing a shit job.

I’m worried for you. I am worried that all those meals you claim on expenses might be too full of refined sugar and saturated fat. But don’t worry. I am here to help. I am sending you a free meal, loads better than that crap your mother could make, with cake for pudding.

Free cake I tell you! For God’s sake, what’s to moan about?


*The research produced as some of the evidence for the need for free school meals claimed only 1% of packed lunches meet the nutritional requirements applied to school foods.


2 thoughts on “Let Them Eat Free School Meals: Why Parents’ Frustrations Are Not All About The Cake

  1. Clare Flourish says:

    The basic case for public services is that we do some things better together. You have a degree, you could educate your children. You could find out what is good for four year old minds, and tailor it precisely to your child. Or you could bring your children home and cook a meal for them every lunchtime. But if public services do this, there is a great deal less effort for a similar result.


    • Abby Boid says:

      You know Clare, you are absolutely right. – that’s another thing to add to my bulleted list of why I should like the scheme, and another reason why it is so perplexing that it has annoyed me.
      The more I look at it, its more the reasons behind the idea that are so frustrating. Perhaps I need to lighten up a little: if the end is OK, maybe I should not care about the road that got us there.
      Perhaps guilt plays a part too – there are people a lot needier than I. But then that is a whole other conundrum,


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