School dinners – did you love them or hate them?

From cheese pie to tapioca pudding, school dinners were government subsidised in order to provide nutritious food to hungry post-war children.

Cooked from scratch without the benefit of fridges, freezers or dishwashers, legendary dinner ladies made classic dishes that would keep us going until the end of the day.

The original 40s menus remained largely unchanged for over 50 years, leaving generations of school children with some fond and some not so fond memories of eating at school.

Here we take a look back at some of the school dinner staples of our childhood…

Cheese Pie

Forerunner to the later cheese and bacon flan, usually a firm favourite.

Spam Fritters

Typically served with mashed potato and peas, spam fritters were a savoury staple.

Minced Beef

With boiled potatoes and cabbage, minced beef never looked terribly appetizing and the cabbage was mostly over-cooked but we couldn’t have pudding until we’d finished our plate!

Chocolate Crunch and Custard

Poured from huge metal jugs custard could be lumpy and almost always had a skin on top. It was sometimes chocolate and occasionally pink – or was that just runny blancmange?

Tapioca Pudding

Otherwise known as frogspawn, tapioca was often accompanied by a dollop of strawberry jam in a bid to make it a tad more palatable, although, in fact, it looked far worse than it tasted.

Sultana Steamed Pudding

Served with custard, all manner of steamed puddings regularly featured on the school dinner menu, keeping us feeling full for the rest of the day.

Arctic Roll

A real treat in the summer term and one to look forward to!


Can you add any to our selection? Did you enjoy school dinners? Share your memories in the comments below.

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Melina - Assistant Editor

Hi I'm Melina, a mother of 3 teenage children and with a particular interest in all things health related. I run a busy household and smallholding alongside my work with Silversurfers, which currently includes dogs, fish, hens, ducks and pigs!

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19th Mar 2021
Thanks for voting!
I grew up in America in the 60s. The school district I attended made Pizzawiches, usually on Fridays. We all liked them a lot. I duplicated the recipe and share with friends now.
8th Mar 2021
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Prunes and custard, playing tinker taylor soldier spy with the stones on side of dish
7th Mar 2021
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Most of our generation would have had school dinners as popping home wasn't always possible and packed lunche option didn't exist back then.
Mostly they were awful and I still shudder thinking back to the dreadful milk puddings and lumpy custard which has put me off for life!!
There were a few occasional treats introduction of fish fingers was one and the cottage pie was acceptable.
6th Mar 2021
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My mother was a very good cook, so I knew the taste of well prepared meals and school dinners did not compare well to the food I was served at home. School dinners were awful. All the food was cooked in Stockport, a town about five miles away, and transported in the large, lidded metal trays from which it was served. We stood in line with our plastic plates and watched the ladies in the kitchen lift the covers from the steaming food. As each lid was lifted condensation dripped into the cabbage/mashed potato/steamed pudding - whatever was inside. A few items, such as lumpy custard and gravy, were cooked on the premises but that did nothing to improve the quality. I understand now that it was a valiant effort to ensure at least basic nutrition for all the nation’s schoolchildren. My parents were only asked to pay five shillings a week (25p). But the food was truly dreadful. Read more in my blog
5th Mar 2021
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i hated school dinners but no one ever took a packed lunch in the 50's/60's. I do remember taking 5 shillings every Monday for the weeks dinners.(25p in todays money). My mum used to give me 2 half crowns to give to the teacher.

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