Educating Bradford

Educating Bradford

3. School Meals

“Feed the stomach then the mind

Margaret McMillan

Due to campaigning by Margaret McMillan from the 1890s, the 1906 Education (Provision of Meals) Act allowed schools to provide meals and milk to schoolchildren who needed them as ‘hungry children can’t learn’.

In 1892, she and Dr. James Kerr (school medical officer) reported on poor, hungry Bradford schoolchildren, arguing that local authorities should provide free meals. After McMillan joined the Bradford School Board in 1894, she introduced one of the country’s first free school meals schemes in October 1904. Green Lane School was the first in Bradford to serve one (scotch barley broth and a fruit tart), becoming a central depot for distributing Bradford’s school meals.

McMillan, her sister Rachel and friend Katherine Glaiser, campaigned for the compulsory provision of school meals as ‘hungry children can’t learn’. As a result, the Education (Provision of Meals) Act, passed in 1906, allowed local authorities to provide a school meal and milk each day, if deemed necessary and only to children in need. Bradford quickly expanded its scheme, serving thousands of free school meals each year.

By the 1950s, school dinners were a key element of school life. Over the decades, the types of meals have changed.

1910s     Breakfast: porridge or bread with margarine or dripping.

1940s     Dinner: spam or cheese and potato pie.

                Pudding: jam roly-poly with custard (war-time rationing).

1970s     Dinner: Fish and chips with peas (Friday tradition)

                Pudding: rice pudding with jam.

2000s     Dinner: turkey twizzlers with chips and beans.

                Pudding: chocolate cake

2020       Dinner: Vegetable curry or Quorn spaghetti bolognese

                fruit salad with yoghurt.