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Home > Culture and Society

Fatty Fatty Fat Fats: A Class Issue

24 September 2006

From time to time, you have to marvel at the fact that we humans aren't still living in caves. Sometimes it's that moment of panic as you see a loved one poking around in a toaster with a metal fork, sometimes it's spending 10 minutes in a queue at the corner shop when all you want is a pint of milk, but 200 proles are buying their midweek lottery tickets.

Our sheer amazement that we're not still eating leaves and beetles was reinforced this week as it was reported that two mothers had *stopped* delivering fast food to kids at Rawmarsh Comprehensive School, near Rotherham.

Julie Critchlow and Sam Walker, this week vilified by the press as fatties (for once, accurately: they do look like the human equivalent of angry puffer fish) started passing burgers, fish and chips, pies and fizzy drinks through the railings of the school after it introduced healthier menus. And it wasn't just them: at the height of this particular act of stupidity, there were four mothers delivering between 50 and 60 meals a day, using a supermarket trolley.

The question that springs to mind is: why?

Ms Critchlow explained:

'The reason we have done this is because our kids are being served up disgusting, overpriced rubbish by the school and are not allowed out at lunchtimes to buy something they can enjoy. Food is cheaper and better at the local takeaways. We don't make a penny on it. We just want to make sure the kids are properly fed. They don't enjoy the school food and the end result is that they are starving.'

Ms. Walker, meanwhile, seemed to have a strange grudge against Jamie Oliver: 'I just don't like him and what he stands for. He is forcing our kids to become more picky about their food. Who does he think he is?'

Oh God, where to begin?

School dinners have become something of an obsession in the UK, despite questionable evidence about the effects of a healthier menu on educational achievement, but better food is A Good Thing. It just is. Whatever the claims about its effect on educational achievement, a balanced diet is better for you. It's also more fun to eat. Different foods aren't mutually exclusive either: you can enjoy a burger and you can enjoy a salad. You can enjoy a kebab and you can enjoy wholemeal bread. You can enjoy a Curry Pot Noodle and... maybe we're stretching the comparison here.

If anything, healthier menus don't make kids 'more picky about their food', as Walker claims - they surely broaden their tastes. Kids are frequently idiots when it comes to food: anything becomes an excuse for a moan. You could give a child the most delicious thing in the world, and they would happily complain 'Don't like it', largely on a whim. It's just how kids are. And surely allowing kids to persist in a burgers, burgers and yet more burgers diet is making them picky in a wholly negative way. These kids surely, will become the adults you see on You Are What You Eat, who, when given a completely normal piece of food, like a plum, spit it out because 'it's disgusting'. And reprocessed cow eyelids aren't?

The mums do not come out of this looking good. Not only are they feeding kids unhealthy food, but there's a big question about how they're raising them. They're encouraging the children to be completely closed-minded about food, and they're also effectively telling them 'If you don't like something, you don't have to do it.' Like GCSEs. Goodbye education, hello ASBOs.

But none of this is really about food: it's about that thing that we Brits excel at: sheer bloodymindedness. And, dare we say it, there's almost a class issue at work here.

There's a distinct attitude among a certain type of working class moron which is: it's a good thing to be bolshy about things, no matter how irrelevant your views. The comments of the mums amply illustrate this. 'I don't like [Jamie Oliver] and what he stands for.' What the fuck does this mean? He's a TV chef who's brought about some positive changes to school meals, even if his motives are questionable. Apparently the school food is 'disgusting, overpriced rubbish'. Is it really? *Really*? No one ever died from eating new potatoes.

The mums sound exactly like the sort of thick people who get a grim kind of satisfaction out of rejecting anything positive. Still, the irony of passing food through the bars of school is pretty amusing. Maybe next time it'll be a prison. Or a zoo.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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