'It takes away our choice' - Parents dismay as four schools ban packed lunches
PUBLISHED: 09:14 18 December 2019 | UPDATED: 21:15 19 December 2019
Hundreds of parents have signed a petition calling on an academy trust to reverse its decision to ban packed lunches in four primary schools.
The HEART Education Trust, which runs four schools near Norwich, wrote to parents this month informing them that after the Christmas break all early years and key stage one pupils will be required to have hot lunches provided by the school - and that any packed lunches will be sent home uneaten.
The change impacts pupils in reception, year one and year two at Heartsease Primary Academy, Valley Primary Academy, Lingwood Primary Academy and Henderson Green Primary Academy.
The trust says the change has been made to help guarantee every child has at least one hot meal a day, to help reduce single use plastic in the school and to help them learn to make healthier choices about nutrition.
However, the move has gone down poorly with a number of parents, with a petition against it already gathering more than 450 signatures.
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It was set up by 28-year-old mum-of-three Sam Gravener, of Borrowdale Drive, whose five-year-old son Freddie attends Heartsease Primary Academy.
She said: "A lot of parents are angry, upset and frustrated by the decision - it feels as though the schools are trying to micro-manage our parenting and it takes away our choice.
"I also don't feel like we were properly consulted and that the decision has been made without getting feedback from us parents."
However, trust chief operating officer Hazel Cubbage said: "This initiative achieves our mission of improving the life chances of children through both sustainability and health benefits.
"We have worked closely with our caterers to ensure we have an improved menu selection that accommodates a range of dietary needs, including vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy free options.
"We know how difficult and time-consuming it can be for parents to provide a nutritionally balanced lunch box without spending a small fortune.
"Schools receive funding specifically for the purpose of providing hot meals to children in reception and key stage one so it seems ridiculous for parents to struggle to plan and pay for lunches when we can provide them for free."