Warning to all parents whose children are entitled to free school meals

PARENTS have been warned about the state of their children’s school meals amid the cost of living crisis.

It is feared that children’s diets will become less healthy if foods are eliminated from the menu.

Parents have been warned that their children's school meals could deteriorate in quality


Parents have been warned that their children’s school meals could deteriorate in qualityPhoto credit: Getty

Beef, chicken and some fruits and vegetables are considered too expensive for companies to offer.

Laca, the association of school catering caterers, made some worrying findings when it surveyed 160 catering companies in England and Wales that serve more than a million pupils.

The May survey found that a combination of rising food costs, supply chain issues and insufficient funding are putting healthy meals at risk.

That includes children receiving free school meals, which activists say could be their only hot meal of the day.

Around 78 percent of caterers have had to change their menus or reduce menu options due to supply chain issues, Laca announced on Monday.

Over a third (34%) of restaurateurs are considering using more processed foods, with 12% already doing so.

About 30 percent face shortages of fresh meat, including chicken, lamb and beef.

Almost 30 per cent of restaurateurs are considering switching from British meat to meat from abroad, and 20 per cent are already doing so.

The worst hit were staple foods such as pasta, oil, frozen vegetables and fish.

Jacquie Blake, LACA national chair, said: “These results should be an urgent wake-up call.

“Many school catering establishments are at their breaking point.

“Without adequate funding for school meals, the most vulnerable children will miss their only hot meal of the day.

“Caterers are making efforts to provide hot and nutritious school meals but this is becoming increasingly difficult and is likely to get worse in the coming months.

“As families face a livelihood crisis at home, it is more urgent than ever that all children receive a healthy school lunch.

“We are urging the government to act now to ensure schools can continue to feed children.”

About 55 percent of caterers said the quality of school lunches will deteriorate unless things improve.

It comes after parents at a Darlington school said they had to bring food to school because their children were being served “disgusting” meals.

In response to the survey, Minister for Children and Families Will Quince said the Government has “really clear school feeding standards that are about healthy, nutritious meals for children”.

He said he recognizes that schools are “not immune” to the cost-of-living crisis but that they must manage their own budgets.

He said inflation is why last month’s increase in the funding rate for universal free school meals was extended.

The Government increased the rate by 7p per pupil retrospectively to 1 April, with all pupils in Reception, 1st and 2nd grade receiving £2.41 per meal instead of £2.34.

Activists said the increase has lagged far behind inflation. Warning to all parents whose children are entitled to free school meals

Sarah Y. Kim

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