Glasgow's school children are being "driven away in droves" by healthy school meals, the head of the city's catering has warned.
Fergus Chambers, executive director at Direct and Care Services, Glasgow City Council, told delegates at last week's Local Authority Caterers Association that school caterers were losing out to local shops and takeaways.
And the problem could get worse, Chambers warned, pointing to the nutrient based standards for food set to come into force at Scotland's secondary schools next September.
They are arguably more stringent than England's with items such as chocolate (including cooking chocolate) Diet Coke, flavoured water and orange juice larger than 200ml outlawed.
"I guarantee uptake will continue to plummet if we go ahead with the nutritional standards as they are," Chambers said. "We are facing the law of unintended consequences and fewer children eating school meals can't be anyone's objective."
He called for flexibility for caterers at a local level to allow them to compete better with the high street, arguing a middle way between the junk served at local fast food joints and the super healthy meals demanded by the new standards was required to keep secondary children eating in schools.
- Wales is the only country in the UK not to have passed new legislation for school meals. Instead the 22 local authorities (LAs) have been grouped together into four regions. Following proposals in 2007's final Appetite for Life document, one council from each region will this September start road-testing the proposed nutritional standards to see how they work in practice. A final report on the results is due in 2010. Schools outside the scheme are being supported with funds to improve school caterer's training to move towards healthy meal provision. The LAs are being given training and access to Saffron nutritional software, which has been chosen as the preferred analysis tool, and a central database of menus and ingredients is being built free to all to access as part of the Catering Network. For more see Physical Activity and Nutrition for Wales.
By Chris Druce
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