Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Council To Fork Out More On School Dinners

By Ben Aulakh

Leicester City Council looks set to have to fork out an extra £76, 000 to maintain the city’s school meals provision, in the wake of rising food prices and inflation.

Members of the council’s ruling cabinet have been told that the cost of each school dinner needs to rise by around 10 pence, to keep pace with high food prices and inflationary pressures.

The proposed price increase would push the cost of a primary school meal to £1.75, and lunch at a secondary school to £2.05.

Cllr Vi Dempster, Assistant City Mayor for children, young people and schools said, “It’s vital that all of our school children have access to a hot, nutritious meal at lunchtime.

We know this makes a big difference to their behaviour and ability to learn at school, and also to their long-term health and wellbeing.”

“We need to make sure this service can continue to operate and can cope with the likely inflation rises ahead, because if prices don’t go up, we will need to cut other areas within children’s services to find the extra money we need.”

The council say that even taking into account the proposed price rises; Leicester would still have among the lowest meal charges in the region.

The city catering team produce around 16,000 school meals every day; around half these are part of the national free school meals programme, where 50 per cent of the cost dinners provided to the least well off children are paid for by the government.

However one of the main reasons cited by the council for having to spend more on school lunches is that government funding in this area has failed to keep pace with inflation.

Cllr Dempster added, “It’s very important that people take up their entitlement to free school meals; as a council we are continuing to look at ways we can encourage everyone who is eligible to apply for them.”

A final decision on the matter will be made the city’s council and mayor Peter Soulsby on September 12.

More information on free school meals and an online application form are available on the council’s website at www.leicester.gov.uk/freeschoolmeals.
People can also call the council on 0116 252 7865 and apply on the telephone if they have their national insurance number to hand.
Forms are also available from schools and from the city council’s customer service offices.

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