School dinners have always had a reputation for being a bit gross. However, gone are the days of lumpy gravy, thick slabs of jam roly poly and warm, wilting ham sandwiches. School dinners have a long history, having been first introduced in 1906 as part of the School Meals Act. Many generations have since grown up on a changing menu of bread and dripping, rationed spam and lumpy mash. Here are some of the changes that have taken place since it all began in 1906:

In 1906, school meals were a simple affair that would have included things like oatmeal porridge and treacle, followed by bread and dripping washed down with water or milk. This was a major milestone though, no matter how basic the food sounds now. This was the first time in British history that every child who went school received a hot meal. In the thirty years between 1910 and the start of the Second World War, school dinner menus expanded to include tasty treats such as mutton stew and toad-in-the-hole. Many look back in fondness for the iconic treacle pudding that was also introduced during this period.

During the Second World War, rationing became an everyday part of life that lasted well in the fifties. If you went to school between 1940 and 1960 then you would no doubt have eaten a lot of spam. Served alongside the ubiquitous spam would have been mashed potato. On the plus side, cheese and potato pie was popular, as well as jam roly poly with custard!

A basic school dinner was charged at 4D per child and that would have included beef, potatoes and broad beans, bread and butter pudding, cheese and egg salads with lettuce and tomato or a shepherd’s pie with greens followed by apple pudding and custard. For those who could upgrade to 6D a day, the menu became a lot more interesting. Dishes such as fish au gratin and tapioca with fruit, steak and kidney pie with potatoes and cabbage, roast lamb in mint sauce and veal and ham pie.

Between 1960 and 1970, even more was added to the school dinner menu. The swinging sixties saw the introduction of such delights as Fray Bentos pies, fish and chips, liver and mash and even whale meat! Those with a sweet tooth had more fun too with the introduction of delicious desserts like custard and cake with pink icing, lemon curd pie with cream, rice pudding and jam and occasional jelly and ice-cream. For Leicester Catering Equipment, visit

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Themed lunchboxes became all the rage in the 1980s, so it could be that more children were choosing to take packed lunches to school by the eighties. They came in a wide variety of TV show themes, Disney characters and other toy related merchandise. The 1990s saw not much change in terms of school dinner menus. Maybe it was all becoming a bit tired as packed lunches were definitely on the rise. A typical packed lunch might have contained a wagon wheel, an apple, a yoghurt or some Dairylea triangles for example.

In 2005, Jamie Oliver launched a massive campaign to reinvent school dinners. It seems our taste buds were bored, and our waistlines were expanding. Out went the dry turkey twizzlers, and in came the tantalising wraps and coconut fish. Healthier options were called for, along with an increase in quality and taste. School meals have never been so healthy, with a focus on organic fruit and veg, wholegrain alternatives and definitely more fruit than fudge when it comes to desserts. Strict government guidelines now shape the menus and schools must also enforce a healthy lunchbox policy too.