School food provider blames parents

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The school dinner provider Scolarest's study, which showed that nearly half of children aged seven to 14 ate chocolate, cake, sweets or biscuits every day at home, attracted the ire of parents' leaders. They said that it was a "a bit rich" for a company that makes millions out of school meals to blame parents for children's eating habits, and urged school meals providers to have a "more grown-up debate about the issues".

Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, argued that most parents ensured that their children ate a balanced diet.

"The tendency to blame parents has got completely out of proportion," Mrs Morrissey said. "We all know there are some homes where perhaps the diet is not as nutritious as it could be, but the vast majority of parents ensure that children eat a balanced diet.

"Children will never remember the vegetables they ate, but can always tell you all about the sweets and cakes they have eaten."

The study said that many parents were failing to teach children healthy eating habits, and often let them help themselves to any food they wanted. The Scolarest Healthy Eating Report 2005 found that children were more likely to survive on unhealthy snacks at home rather than sitting down to a freshly cooked meal.

Nearly half of the 800 seven- to 14-year-olds surveyed chose what they wanted to eat for breakfast, lunch or supper, and more than one third told researchers that they made their own breakfast or evening meal without supervision every day.