April 2010 Archives

Election 2010: what the parties say about school meals

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Apple-TT.gifWill you continue investment in school meals beyond March 2011, when the transitional funding is scheduled to cease? If not, how will you respond if schools are forced to withdraw lunch services because of cost issues?

Jeremy Hunt, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Conservative) Providing free school meals to disadvantaged pupils is important and we have no plans to stop this scheme.

CONNIE_COW.jpgIndependent contract caterer Pabulum has updated its popular 'Healthy Bunch' illustrated character series to encourage more children to eat healthily at school.

The new characters, which are part of a campaign that was launched a few years ago, form the backbone of a concerted effort by Pabulum to raise nutritional standards by transforming the type of meals served in schools. 

The new characters will be unveiled by Pabulum to the parents of youngsters attending schools it serves across the South East this term. Information packs, incorporating a full set of characters, will also be sent to parents of new joiners ahead of the start of the new school year in September.

Jamie-Oliver.jpgJamie Oliver plans to spend millions of pounds of his own money in a bid to improve food education and meals in primary schools, he has revealed.

The healthy eating champion said he would set aside a percentage of profits from each of his companies to create a funding pot that would be used to create "a mechanism of food that the schools can bid for".

Speaking to the BBC, Oliver said that, although plans were at an early stage, he hoped the scheme where individual schools could bid for "literally hundreds of thousands of pounds" would provide a model for government policy. The cash would go towards building gardens, new kitchens, seeds and fruit trees as well as teaching collateral including web sites, DVDs and conferences.

Brookwood's charity kitchen hell in Hertfordshire

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Hells_Kitchen_logo.jpgIndependent school caterer Brookwood Partnership has found a fun way to engage schoolkids with food by helping a group of Hertfordshire pupils and their teachers to raise over £8,000 for charity with their own version of television's "Hell's Kitchen".

The event at Aldenham School, Hertfordshire, was organised to raise funds for two charities supporting schools in Africa and the total amount raised was £8397.58.

A three-course menu was prepared by two opposing teams, which saw pupils go up against their teachers in a head to head battle, while parents paid £35 each to sample to the dishes.

Finland can teach us how to increase school meal uptake

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Richard Wedgbury.jpgWith no clear idea how to address a downward trend in school meal uptake, we should look to labour-efficient models like those operated in Finland to fund school food, says FCSI education consultant Richard Wedgbury.

The catering service provision to our schools appears to be in a quandary, with little or no idea as to how the downward trend in meal uptake can be arrested.

Pre-Jamie Oliver there was approximately a 43% uptake of secondary school meals, of which 30% was from cash sales and 13% was from free meals.

School dinners - what if the funding stops?

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School-meals-kid-blog.jpgDoomsday' is a pessimistic word to use, but unfortunately necessary in the context. However unlikely the possibility of school food funding ceasing with the end of the School Lunch Grant in March 2011, there is, nonetheless, a chance it will.

With huge pressure on cutting public spending, the next Government will have to find some areas to cut back on. And that, like it or not, could spell doomsday for the past five years of progress with healthy eating in schools.

It's hard to assess the exact fallout should the government cease to provide the School Lunch Grant, but it's safe to say that not all school meal services would survive the cut in funds. Beverley Baker, chairman of the Local Authority Caterers Association, puts the likely outcome most succinctly: "In my view, there would be three main scenarios - parents would have to pay more, schools would have to subsidise more or local authorities would have to contribute more."

All of these, of course, represent difficult challenges, with considerable resistance and debate over where to spend scarce resources inevitable. 

"There will undoubtedly be competing demands for the money, which will probably mean that while some schools may flourish, others may well find running a school meals service unaffordable," continues Baker. 

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