IN the dim, and very distant past, when I was at school, we queued up every Monday to buy our dinner tickets for the week and when lunchtime came round, we handed over one ticket in return for a two-course meal.

As a well known “mealcat” would have said: “Simples.”

And the choices were “simples” too – pretty much take it or leave it and we weren’t allowed any such fanciful ideas a vegetarianism. In general the food was good, portions ok and, with one or two exceptions, we enjoyed the meals provided. Who remembers caramel tart, school cake and mince with an ice-cream scoop of semi-mashed potato?

Now it is rather more complex. Dinners are paid for in advance using an app and the menus are published in advance allowing meals to be selected ahead of time. The menus are constructed according to a rigid set of nutritional parameters catering to a wide range of diets and no-one should ever be disappointed.

And while the new system seems in general to work well I have recently heard of a few slip ups and disappointments where things have gone very awry.

READ MORE: ‘School staff seeing more students who do not have enough dinner money’

There have been reports of menus being changed at the last minute, ordered meals not appearing or running out and restricted choice with two cheese-based meals and nothing else to choose from. Some parents are concerned too about the very real restriction of red meat on the menu.

I asked members of Helensburgh Parents’ Group what they thought and here are some of the answers:

  • “I have noticed that some schools only go by a three/four week planner for meals but I have also noticed that some schools do not cater for children who are vegetarian, protein allergy, lactose. I have one child in high school and two who attend an Early Learning and Childcare nursery all who receives school lunches and I have noticed with the ELC nursery there are no other options available apart from what’s on the menu and that is only one starter/dessert and one main course. There isn't even an option for vegetarian in the menu apart from vegetables five times out of a three week menu. I find it also shocking that some offer an alternative with a salad bar and some don't.”
  • “My older two have packed lunch due to very restricted diets. My youngest has allergies and has school lunches. I think the biggest thing for me is the amount of baked potatoes being an option every day but know few kids who eat them. Also there is mash with most things, none of my kids eat mashed potato.”
  • “My son has come home quite often since the start of term saying he hasn't eaten a full meal at lunchtime. I choose the options with him in advance using iPayimpact and we choose meals we know he likes, but the way they are served seems to be to deliberately put the children off. It's forcing parents to provide a packed lunch when all P1-P5 children are entitled to a free school meal.”

There were many other comments and examples of dissatisfaction which I do not have room to include here and I would be happy to hear from anyone else who has something to report. Details of the regulations for planning school meals are available or the council’s website.

My email address, should you wish to contact me, is: and my phone number is: 07788549192.