School meal funding to continue, thanks to School Meals Matter campaign

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Funding for school meals will continue to be available, thanks to supporters of the Caterer and Hotelkeeper School Meals Matter campaign, held in conjunction with the Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA).

Months of concern over the future of the School Lunch Grant have been laid to rest after it emerged from the comprehensive spending review that funding will continue beyond the grant's expiry date of March 2011 as part of the expanded baseline budget for schools.

Caterer launched the campaign with LACA ahead of this year's general election, calling on the government-elect to demonstrate a firm commitment to the importance of school meals.

Mark Lewis, Caterer editor, explained: "We launched School Meals Matter because we all stand to gain from continued funding of school meals provision. As parents, we want to see our children nutritionally-equipped to study and exercise at school. As taxpayers, we want to see the burden on the National Health Service caused by obesity and type two diabetes eased.

"And, as stakeholders in the hospitality industry, we want to ensure fresh generations of children who appreciate flavour, enjoy eating out and may perhaps even go on to work in the industry themselves. I'm delighted that we and LACA were able to galvanise the hospitality industry to exert pressure on the government to take the right decision."

School meal champions have welcomed the news but there is still disappointment that the cash intended to be spent on healthy lunch provision has not been ring-fenced.

"After months of lobbying and mobilising the support of the industry, I am delighted that with the support of Caterer and Hotelkeeper, the message from LACA members has been heard by the coalition Government, and despite the cuts to public services, the School Lunch Grant will continue and will be included in the schools budget," said Beverley Baker, past chair of LACA and campaign figurehead.

"The money will not be ring-fenced, which would have been even better, but caterers will be able to negotiate with schools to ensure the money is spent as intended, on school food."

According to Andrew Etherington, food service consultant at Andrew Etherington Associates, the Government decision not to make cuts to education spend coupled with an increase in head teacher engagement in school meals could mean that the unprotected funding may not be raided for other purposes as feared.

"I have ample evidence of head teachers becoming very involved in the quality of their school meals but they are very disappointed that the capital spending on new buildings and facilities has been slashed by 60%," said Etherington.

"They still feel that the quality of the facilities they're given makes a massive difference."

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