Ten years ago, vending machines in schools were a rarity, and today, as a result of budget cuts and convenience, they are a regular feature in many schools around the country.
Part of the problem is what used to be considered "treat foods", ie a bag of crisps or a bar of chocolate, have now worked their way into everyday foods for many children. As a parent, I try to give the right direction so my children will be less likely to buy into the unhealthier vending machines options. However, the availability of these machines means parental control is lost once the child walks in the door of the school. The healthy packed lunch may be cast aside in favour of less nutritional, higher sugar foods.
Children need good proteins and slow-releasing carbs to help concentration in the classroom. School lunches can easily incorporate healthy options - salads, wholewheat pastas with vegetable-based sauces, fish pie, stews with vegetables, soups, stir fries - the options are limitless.
I believe that in order for healthy options to become the norm in school, a pincer movement is required. Parents can influence, the schools can insist on healthy canteen options and the children, who generally are interested in their health and appearance, especially if they play sport, will (should!) take note.
Catherine Fulvio is an author and owner of Ballyknocken House & Cookery School.