School dinner prices frozen

PUBLISHED: 10:04 23 March 2009 | UPDATED: 13:26 03 July 2010

RECESSION-hit Norfolk parents had some long-overdue good news last night as education bosses froze the price of school dinners despite continuing volatility in global food prices.

RECESSION-hit Norfolk parents had some long-overdue good news last night as education bosses froze the price of school dinners despite continuing volatility in global food prices.

Norfolk County Council has pumped in an extra £100,000 to subsidise the meals to head off any increase from September from the current level of £2 per day.

The news comes at a time when job uncertainty and a cash squeeze during the deepening recession are putting heavy pressure on household budgets.

It follows a shock increase last year of 10p per week as school meal providers saw staple foods soar in price - including pasta (up 70pc in nine months), cheese (up 25pc) and frozen peas (up 50pc). The increases have slowed this year, but continue to fluctuate because of the volatile global economy.

The council moved to reassure parents that the price freeze did not mean quality was being compromised.

Alison Allen, commercial catering director for Norfolk County Services, which provides meals to 20,000 pupils each day at more than 350 Norfolk schools, said: “We are very efficient in ensuring we get the best possible value for money from our suppliers, who we always try and ensure use locally sourced produce.

“Providing value for money does not mean a cut in quality though. Our meals meet all the nutritional guidelines that are set in place to ensure that children and young people eat healthily, and our menus are creative and exciting and prove a popular choice for pupils, and I'm sure that will continue.”

Rosalie Monbiot, cabinet member for children's services at the council, said: “I am pleased that we have been able to freeze the prices of school meals for the coming school year, at a time when more parents will be feeling the pinch.”

She said school meals take-up in Norfolk was “good”, and the county had been “ahead of the game nationally in nutritional terms” a long time before a “certain well-known chef started his campaign”.

Mrs Monbiot was referring to celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, whose TV series Jamie's School Dinners raised awareness of under-investment in, and the poor quality of, school meals in some parts of the country.

Since then, the government has responded by introducing strict nutritional guidelines that all school meals providers have to meet - including maximum levels of salt, sugar and fat, and minimum levels of fibre, protein and certain vitamins.

Mrs Monbiot added: “The county council has put an extra £100,000 into the school meals pot this year in order to keep the price down, yet keep the quality and creativity up, and I am sure school meals will continue to be a hit with children and young people in the coming year.

“Additionally, I would encourage any parent and carer who is eligible for free school meals to enquire at their local school about how to obtain them.”

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