Caterers should buy British in order to improve the quality of school dinners, according to the Countryside Alliance Foundation.
The charity organisation, set up to educate the public about the countryside, claimed that children’s health, concentration and behaviour would benefit from the investment in quality home-grown produce rather than cheaper foreign imports.
But despite high-profile campaigns by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver for schools to use more locally sourced produce, only 60 (35%) of 172 local education authorities knew the country of origin of the food they served.
For those that did, an average of 62% of the food bought in 2009/10 was British, according to freedom of information requests made by the foundation.
A separate poll by YouGov found that public support for buying school meals locally was high, with 61% of the 2,799 adults quizzed saying they believed schools should be made to buy British meat products, even if it cost more money.
Alice Barnard, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance Foundation, said: “When times are tough, too often the public sector turns to foreign suppliers for cheap goods.
“But if more schools looked to local producers to fill their food needs, they would be investing in higher-quality meals for pupils, which would help keep their children healthy and improve concentration, and put taxpayers’ money back into the local economy.”
By Janie Stamford
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