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School Meals: Per Capita Costs

Volume 475: debated on Tuesday 13 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what assessment he has made of the impact of rising food prices on the cost of schools meals; and if he will make a statement. (202638)

The Government have not made such an assessment.

However, the Government are taking forward a number of steps to help to keep down the price of school meals. We are investing over £650 million between 2005-11 to help raise nutritional standards and keep school lunch prices down. This funding is also being used to help build kitchens in areas with no kitchen facilities; to better support the development of training centres for the school food workforce; and to improve overall take-up.

The School Food Trust is working with manufacturers, caterers and schools to ensure the long term sustainability and efficiency of the country’s school food service. They are working with food producers and manufacturers to ensure that the nutrient menus have a minimum effect on the price of school meals as well as working on kitchen efficiencies, including both skilling the workforce and looking at international business models. The Trust has produced guidance focusing on efficient and sustainable school food procurement. This guidance is being distributed to all schools in April 2008.

The Department is working in close alliance with the Trust and other Departments, to identify opportunities and develop initiatives to further improve efficiencies in procurement. These include price benchmark variance reporting, common food standards and terms and conditions to support local and national competitive tendering, as well as the use of shared contracts from other Departments, where they can be shown to meet the needs of schools.

In response to a survey carried out in January 2008 by the School Food Trust 2008, 68 per cent. of local authorities (LAs) reported that, in principle, their catering service was expected to break even, with 9 per cent. expected to operate at a deficit, and 10 per cent. expected to make a surplus. For the 2007/08 financial year, 44 per cent. of LAs expected their catering service to break even or make a surplus, compared to the 41 per cent. of LAs who achieved this in 2006/07. Similar numbers of LAs expected their financial outcome to improve (15 LAs) as expected it to worsen (14 LAs). The results of the Trust’s survey can be found on its website at: