As part of our goal towards the Healthy Schools Award and to grow and stay healthy children need to eat a nutritionally well balanced diet. Schools are an influential setting and can contribute significantly to improving the health and well-being of pupils. Good nutrition in childhood can help to prevent a variety of health problems, both in the short term and later in life. There is increasing concern that many children are consuming too much fat, sugar and salt and too little fibre, fruit and vegetables. Packed lunches can contribute to almost a third of a child’s weekly food intake and therefore need to be balanced and nutritious. 

Evidence strongly suggests that an unhealthy diet contributes to poor concentration, energy levels and can have an impact on their behaviour, subsequently, impacting upon their academic performance.


 To ensure that packed lunches (brought in from home) reflect the new standards for school meals.


“In England, most people are overweight or obese. This includes 61.9% of adults and 28% of children aged between 2 and 15. People who are overweight have a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. Excess weight can also make it more difficult for people to find and keep work, and it can affect self-esteem and mental health”(

 ∙ Schools are required to positively promote the health and well-being of its pupils. Work around healthy eating is a high priority. 

∙ The content of lunchboxes needs to reflect the requirement of schools to meet minimum food and nutrition standards for school meals.

 ∙ The contents of lunchboxes in some schools can be extremely unhealthy, recent audits of lunchboxes have shown that in the main they contain foods with high levels of fat, sugar and salt, and very few fruit and vegetables. 

∙ To encourage healthy eating habits from an early age and improve the overall nutrition of pupils.

∙ The short term effects of unhealthy packed lunches and food intake can include poor growth, tooth decay, obesity, anaemia, constipation, poor concentration and behavioural problems which may have an impact on a child’s learning.

 ∙ The longer term effects of a poor diet in childhood can be an increased risk of stroke, cancer, heart disease and diabetes in adulthood. 


  • To improve the nutritional quality of packed lunches in schools and the eating habits of children at lunchtimes.
  • To develop an awareness in pupils, parents, staff and the wider community that the school takes a pro-active approach to promoting healthy eating.
  • To encourage healthy eating habits in childhood that can influence health and well-being in later life. 
  • To ensure that food brought into school (packed lunches) reflects and meets NHS guidelines.


This packed lunch policy fits within a wider context of promoting a whole school approach to food and healthy eating. 

National guidance

The policy was drawn up using a range of national documents including information from the Government website, Public Health England and the Caroline Walker Trust.

“Tackling obesity is one of the greatest long-term health challenges currently faced in England. Around two-thirds (63%) of adults are above a healthy weight, and of these half are living with obesity. In England 1 in 3 children leaving primary school are overweight or living with obesity with 1 in 5 living with obesity” (Public Health England)

Food and drink in packed lunches

  • The school will provide facilities for pupils bringing in packed lunches and ensure that free, fresh drinking water is readily available at all times.
  • The school will work with the pupils to provide appropriate dining room arrangements.
  • The school will work with parents and carers to ensure that packed lunches abide by the standards listed below.
  • As fridge space is not available in school, pupils are advised to bring packed lunches in insulated bags with freezer blocks where possible to stop the food going off during warmer weather.
  • The school will provide storage area / facilities for packed lunch bags, in the most convenient and appropriate place possible. However the school cannot provide cooled storage areas and therefore cannot take legal responsibility for foods prepared at home and then brought into school.

Packed lunches can include:

  • At least one portion of fruit and vegetables every day. For example sticks of raw vegetables, a piece of fruit or salad
  • Meat, fish and other sources of non-dairy protein (i.e lentils, chickpeas, falafel, hummus) everyday
  • A starchy food such as any type of bread, pasta, rice, couscous, or potatoes. For example a sandwich made with only 2 slices of bread, or 1 sandwich thin, or 1 wrap everyday.
  • Dairy food such as milk, cheese, yoghurt, eggs, fromage frais or custard everyday.
  • May include one small healthy dessert which can be 1 yoghurt pot, 1 sugar free jelly pot, 1 mini 1 small plain muffin or fruit salad everyday
  • May include; one standard size packet of crisps or baked cheese snacks no bigger than 32g every other day. A healthy alternative could be plain popcorn or rice cakes
  • Drink of water (preferable) or a small carton of 100% fruit juice or milk or sugar free diluted juice
  • Children have access to plain water within their drinking bottle throughout the school day

(For portion sizes please see Appendix 1)

Packed lunches CAN NOT include:

  • Nuts – including peanut butter or Nutella – Due to life threatening risk to any child or member of staff with allergies
  • Confectionary- such as chocolate bars or sweets (i.e haribo) high sugary snacks such as doughnuts, or chocolate biscuits of any kind
  • No chocolate products allowed including chocolate yoghurts, mousse or breakfast bars 
  • Takeaways or fast food i.e. McDonalds, KFC, Dickson’s, Saveloy dips, Pastries, takeaway pizza, chips or kebabs
  • Fizzy pop or carbonated drinks
  • Water bottles used throughout the school day cannot contain anything other than plain water.

Waste and restricted items

The school will, within reason, send any uneaten packed lunch food items back home. The rationale for this is that parents can also monitor what their child has consumed during the day and then raise any concerns over their child’s food intake with the school. This includes items placed in packed lunches which are prohibited. Parents/carers will be notified if an item as listed above is included in their child’s packed lunch which is prohibited.

Special diets and allergies

The school recognises that some pupils may require special diets which do not follow the standards exactly. In this case parents/carers are urged to be responsible to ensure that packed lunches are as healthy as possible. For these reasons pupils are not permitted to swap food items.

Any special requirements regarding your child’s packed lunch due to health or medical reasons can be discussed with school staff and where appropriate advice and guidance is sought from the School Nurse.

School are able to advise parents of those children who are fussy eaters and we will liaise with parents and professionals to provide support where possible.

Promotion of Healthy Packed Lunches

 There will be ongoing promotion of the need to provide healthy packed lunches through: 

  • School newsletters (and school website) 
  • School prospectus  
  • Packed Lunch Policy/  Healthy School  Week / healthy eating activities  with curriculum content
  • PHSE lessons 
  • Parents evenings & consultations
  • Discussion through NHS School Nurse and South Tyneside Council “Healthy Schools Programme”
  • Reward schemes 
  • Workshops for parents 

Lastly we would like to remind parents that we discourage bringing sweet treats and unhealthy foods onto the school premises at any time. We would like parents to encourage healthy snacks outlined in the packed lunch policy or if it is to reward positive behaviour we suggest alternatives such as a trip to the park or beach.

Resources ‘‘Eating well for 5-11 year olds – a practical guide’, Caroline Walker Trust 2010