A four-year-old girl with food allergies has been told she must eat school dinners, after her school branded packed lunches 'antisocial'.
Reception pupil Lisa-Mbali McFarlane has been suffering coughing fits and rashes after eating, and is currently undergoing tests to determine what foods she is allergic to.
Her parents, Axel McFarlane and Gita Wolhuter, have been sending her to Salusbury Primary School, in north-west London, with a specially-prepared packed lunch avoiding any of the foods which trigger a reaction.
However, they were astonished when the school contacted them to inform them that packed lunches are now banned at the school, with all 270 pupils from Reception to Year Two required to eat free school meals, which were introduced this academic year for primary-age children.
Lisa-Mbali's dad told the Kilburn Times that he and Lisa-Mbali's mum felt their rights were being violated by the decision, leaving them powerless.
"We feel like we have no control over what our children eat. Allergies aside, our children are fed a strict nutritious diet and we prefer if they eat our lunches," he said.
Axel described the situation as 'outrageous' and 'unbelievable', while Lisa-Mbali's mum admitted she was baffled by the temporary solution imposed by the school, which will mean their daughter eating specially-sourced school lunches until her test results come back.
"It would be easier and cheaper for them if they just allow my child to bring in her own lunch rather than spend more to provide her with organic food, which we prefer to feed her," Axel said.
A handful of other pupils have been issued the same ultimatum, which is part of a drive by the school to promote early socialisation. Headteacher Linda Kiernan defended the measure, calling communal eating a 'key life skill'.
"No child wants to be different when they first start school," she said. "It would be difficult for the few who opt for packed lunches to see the rest of their classmates enjoying their school dinners."
The headteacher made it clear that the management intends to stand by their policy, commenting that parents had been notified of the change ahead of the start of term.
"This is the policy we have at the school," she told the Times. "Parents have a choice not to send their child to the school if they disagree."
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