Recent research carried out by the Local Authorities Catering Association has found that not only were nearly two-thirds of members likely to miss the September deadline for the new nutrient standards, but almost 80% believed their introduction would hasten the decline in secondary school meal uptake. According to the School Food Trust (SFT), new figures published show pupil numbers have slipped 0.5% last year to a historic low of 37.2%.
At an emergency conference in April Neil Porter, Chairman, called for a compromise, with nutrient-based standards applied to only the main meal of the day and existing less stringent standards used for all other food. To boost school dinner uptake, he also wants the Government to re-evaluate the level at which children are entitled to free school meals, as about half of children classed as living in poverty in England do not qualify at present and he called for more direct funding past 2011.
The Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have offered support for LACA’s view, but Labour MP Frank Dobson – turning LACA’s own research on its head during a question-and-answer session – asked delegates just what was so difficult about meeting the nutrient standards, when a third of survey respondents said it could be done.
St. Aidan’s Church of England High School took responsibility for their own school food in 2001 and currently serve about 95% of the children in this large comprehensive school (1950 students). They have also developed a website, catering4schools.com, to record all their menus, and calculate the nutritional standards for all food.
Steve Hatcher, Deputy Headteacher, stated confidently that they already have 12 fully compliant menu plans for both Primary schools and Secondary. “Anyone wishing to register can do so on our user friendly website”.