The School Food Trust (SFT), the body set up to spearhead school dinner reform post-Jamie Oliver, is to be transformed after having its funding cut in the Government's quango cull.
The trust, which currently receives public cash, is to continue as a charity and will also set up a complementary Community Interest Company by April 2011. The move should grant it greater commercial flexibility to support its work to increase the healthy school meal uptake in England.
Although yet to be defined, the Government has also signalled that the trust will take forward a number of activities for the Department for Education, the details of which will be revealed in next week's Comprehensive Spending Review.
SFT chairman Rob Rees said: "We are confident that our new status as a Community Interest Company and charity means we will be able to work with everyone involved in children's food and drink to inspire improvements in food and education and give our young people a great start in life."
The Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA) said it would continue to work as closely as possible with the SFT within the framework of its new status, and once it had a clearer understanding of its new role, aims and remit.
However LACA national chairman Sandra Russell, looking ahead to next week's Comprehensive Spending Review, said the school meal service in England still needed frontline support.
"LACA would like to see the Government emphasise to schools and local authorities the importance of school meals to the development of young people and how it should form a key element of the whole school approach to their education, if we are to tackle the obesity crisis and decrease NHS costs in the longer term.
"It is essential, therefore, that the health of children and young people is not the target for cuts but, on the contrary, remains a top priority budgetary item."
WHAT IS A COMMUNITY INTEREST COMPANY?
Community Interest Companies (CICs) are limited companies, with special additional features, created for the use of people who want to conduct a business or other activity for community benefit, and not purely for private advantage. This is achieved by a "community interest test" and "asset lock", which ensure that the CIC is established for community purposes and the assets and profits are dedicated to these purposes.