Schools to review hot dinners

CHILDREN could miss out on hot school meals, it is feared, because money to subsidise the service is to be cut.

Northumberland County Council has announced that it can no longer afford to fund a shortfall for the provision of school meals – which amounted to £664,000 for 2010/11 – and has asked each individual school to review their provision.

It has led to concerns about the future of hot meals in schools and there are worries that the cuts could lead to job losses among kitchen staff.

At a meeting of East Chevington Parish Council earlier this month, Coun Scott Dickinson voiced his disgust at the removal of the subsidy.

After the meeting, he said: “I am concerned about this. School meal subsidy for 2010/11 is £664,000. The schools are then expected to find the difference in their school budgets, which they simply cannot afford.

“This could result in hot school meals being stopped in some of our schools and the dinner ladies and kitchen staff losing their jobs.”

He also fears that the cuts will result in schools having to bring in outside caterers, which he said would push the cost of food up and would give private companies ‘free reign’ over what food was offered.

Frank Jordan, head of commercial and property services, who is responsible for the school meal service at the county council, said: “We realise that the school meal service is generally regarded by parents as a valuable part of each school’s offering and will work with schools over the next few months to review options and opportunities available to them.

“Our whole approach is focused on the council working in partnership with its schools with the aim being that the impact on staff, pupils and parents is minimised.

Once we have greater clarity about the impact at each school we will then be able to share this with parents.”