Please wait, the site is loading...

Food

School dinners: 7 nostalgic facts to share

by Helen Renshaw
School dinners: 7 nostalgic facts to share
School dinners cake. Image: Andrew Burton

From Turkey Twizzlers to jam roly-poly – there can be no doubt that the great British school dinner has a special place in the nation's heart. But how many of these moments do you remember?

1. Return of the Twizzler

Three years ago, more than 27,000 ardent fans signed a Change.org petition demanding the return of the Turkey Twizzler. In response, Bernard Matthews reintroduced the infamous spiral – this time with reduced fat – and to honour the occasion, a three-metre statue of a Twizzler bearing the legend 'THEY’RE BACK!' was unveiled at the company’s Norfolk HQ.

2. School meals go Posh

In 2010, multimillionaire designer and former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham revealed that she liked nothing better than to roll up her sleeves for a stint as a dinner lady at her children’s school. ‘If I’m not working, I go to the school and help serve lunches to the children,’ she said. ‘They just love that.’

3. Bring back jam roly-poly!

When asked which school dinner they missed the most in a 2019 poll, over-50s voted jam roly-poly into top spot, followed by treacle tart, spotted dick, rice pudding and Angel Delight (butterscotch flavour, please. Or is that just us?). More surprisingly, spam fritters, tapioca, tinned peas and ‘ice-cream scoop mash’ also appeared in the top 25.

Roly poly pudding. Image: Andrew Burton
Roly poly pudding. Image: Andrew Burton

4. School dinners go viral

When nine-year-old Martha Payne hit the headlines in 2012 with her blog NeverSeconds, a less than complimentary daily chronicle of her school meals, the local council took exception and banned her from taking pictures in the school canteen. A public backlash followed, and human rights group Big Brother Watch stepped in, calling the ban 'an authoritarian infringement on civil liberties'. NeverSeconds returned – by 2014 it had reached 10 million hits and been awarded Observer Food Blog of the Year, while Martha had been guest speaker at a Copenhagen food conference and visited school kitchens as far afield as Malawi.

5. Go dinner ladies!

The special place dinner ladies hold in our hearts is evidenced by their many appearances in popular culture. The list is long, but here are a few: Lunchlady Doris is the dinner lady in The Simpsons, rock group The Darkness recorded a song called Dinner Lady Arms, and in the video game Bully, Edna is a dinner lady who coughs, sneezes and blows cigarette smoke on the food she prepares, claiming that it 'adds flavour'.

6. More curry, please

In September 2018, the nation voted on its favourite school meal of the previous 25 years in an online poll to celebrate National School Meals Week. The winner… drum roll… was curry and rice. The nation’s favourite school dessert was also investigated. In the running for the top five were fruit crumble, jam and coconut sponge, and pineapple upside down cake. But the runaway winner was chocolate sponge with custard.

7. Finish it up!

In post-war Britain, considerable moral force was applied to ensure every scrap of food was eaten. Prefects took it in turns to stand by a bin for leftovers, and if the prefect deemed what was being left was edible, pupils were sent back to eat it. ‘Many a time, we swallowed gristle with lots of water, as if it were a huge pill,’ says one who remembers.

Try some of our favourite retro school dinner puds:

Tottenham cake

Manchester tart

Jam roly poly

Don`t miss

We value your privacy

We use cookies to help give you the best experience on our site and to allow us and third parties to customise the marketing content you see across websites and social media. For more information see our cookie policy.

Cookie Preference Centre

Learn more about what each cookie category does and choose your settings (toggle right to opt in or left to opt out). Cookie policy


Strictly Necessary

These technologies are needed to enable our websites and apps to run and to keep it secure.

Sainsbury's Magazine

These technologies tell us how customers use our sites and apps and provide information to help us improve the website, apps and your browsing experience.

Cookie name Duration
PHPSESSID Until the browsing session ends
device_view 1 month
recentlyViewedRecipes 1 year
subscription-{popup-version-date}-PopupClosed 12 days

Vimeo

Enables Vimeo videos on the site

Cookie name Duration
_derived_epik 1 year

Constant Commerce

Enables shopping tools for recipe ingredients

Cookie name Duration
cc_a_h 10 years
cc_a_s Until the browsing session ends

DoubleClick

DoubleClick Digital Marketing (DDM) is an integrated ad-technology platform that enables us to more effectively create, manage and grow high-impact digital marketing campaigns.

Cookie name Duration
DSID 10 days
IDE 1 year
RUL 11 months

Performance/Analytics

These technologies tell us how customers use our sites and apps and provide information to help us improve the website, apps and your browsing experience.

Google

Google Analytics tell us how customers use our sites and apps and provide information to help us improve the website, apps and your browsing experience.

Cookie name Duration
__gads 13 months
_ga 28 months
_gat 1 minute
_gid 1 day
1P_JAR 1 month
ANID 10 days
CONSENT 18 years
NID 6 months
__Secure-3PAPISID 2 years
__Secure-3PSID 2 years
__Secure-3PSIDCC 1 year

Marketing/Targeting

These technologies help us decide which products, services and offers may be relevant for you. We use this data to customise the marketing content you see on websites, apps and social media. They also help us understand the performance of our marketing activities. These cookies are set by us or our carefully-selected third parties.

Pinterest

Pinterest conversion tracking gathers conversion insights and builds audiences to target based on actions our visitors have taken on the site.

Cookie name Duration
_pinterest_ct_rt 1 year
_pinterest_ct_ua 1 year
_pin_unauth 1 year

Outbrain

These technologies tell us how customers use our sites and apps and provide information to help us improve the website, apps and your browsing experience.

Cookie name Duration
outbrain_cid_fetch 5 minutes
adrl 5 weeks
apnxs 6 weeks
criteo 2 months
obuid 6 months

Twitter

Twitter conversion tracking enables us to measure our return on ad spend by tracking the actions people take after viewing or engaging with our ads on Twitter.

Cookie name Duration
personalization_id 2 years
muc 2 years
ads_prefs 5 years
auth_token 5 years
dnt 5 years
guest_id 2 years
twid 5 years