No-one does a lopsided grin better than my nine year old son.
“Mum, our headmaster has changed everything about lunchtime!” he exclaimed over dinner. Mr Merrers is a new, impressive, young head teacher type. A lot has changed. There’s a gleaming set of ‘houses’ – not Gryffindor and Hufflepuff, but Savernake and Northerham, Ambarrow and Englemere, four of our local wildlife reserves. He’s started a school football team. Felix is his steadfast goalie. It’s almost like having a shiny new school.
And he has indeed changed the lunches to a system Felix finds baffling.
My son forgets, I’m an insider. “Do you have three lunch options, one of them vegetarian?” I ask, deadpan.
My sons eyes widen. “Yes!”
“And do you have to wear a rubber wrist band, red, green or blue, depending on what your choice is?”
His eyes bulge. If he’s this easy to impress at 14, I think to myself, we’re going to coast through the teenage years.
“How did you know?” he gasped.
“They have that system at my school. It feels complicated for a while,” I go on, sagely, “but you do get used to it in the end.”
And that’s where the lopsided grin appears suddenly, out of nowhere. It has the effect of making people laugh even when no-one’s told a joke.
So I know something’s coming.
“Do you have that thing where they try to push you to eat things?”he ventures. My mind is boggling. They do force feeding at primary school now? Felix is busy casting around for the correct technical term, his face clouded. And then it clears.
“Food Force Five!” he exclaims, and the grin is full-strength now. “It’s rubbish,” he beams, confidentially.
It’s ok for the infants, he tells me seriously. The 5-7 year olds. But to the 7-11′s , its a source of constant amusement.
Felix holds that consumption of school dinners has dropped like a stone since Food Force Five came along. It’s a campaign aimed at getting kids to eat healthily: comprising of five schoolkid heroes, professionaly turned out, with some impressive powers; immortality through regeneration, immunity to toxins, advanced intelligence, yada yada yada. Each one has a trigger: one of the major food groups.
Felix says that on Thursdays – Food Force Thursday – when dishes are named after the five heroes,about two people queue up for dinner. Now: never underestimate my sons ability to exaggerate lavishly, but even so, those are some pretty awesome fact-based statistics.
Who could resisit Googling the superheroes which – Felix says – the infant schoolers love, but the juniors love to hate?
Like any responsible parent I riffled though the five’s resumés.
The Dairy Guy was born in Basingstoke General Hospital. Just after he was born he accidentally, and improbably, drank from a carton of milk in which one of the maternity doctors had hidden a substance named Invincium. He finds himself inadvertently invincible.
The littlest one – triggered by protein – is called Albert and lives in Holland Park. “He has never met his father,” reads the biog, “who, his mother tells him, works for the armed forces, but she can’t be too sure as she only met him once.”
Poor protein-triggered Albert is viewed by his mother as an ‘accident’.
Now I’m hooked. Appalled, but hooked. This is a kid’s healthy eating campaign?
The unfortunately labelled Jaz Mann is the veggie character, rescued by the Red Cross after an attack on her Indian village and brought back to the UK to be cared for by a prominent scientist. Does the Red Cross do that? She ends up at the school for gifted and talented – wait for it – Food Force Farm.
No, not Force Food Farm, silly.
Or Food travelling at Force Five.
That’s Food Force Five to you.
And just to prove I have not been hallucinating, you can check out Food Force Five – and whether it really is for infant schoolers -here