The head of the UK school food industry said free meals for pupils should never become a "political football".
Sally Shadrack, national chair of the Lead Association for Catering in Education (LACA) was speaking days after the Conservatives confirmed a U-turn on a manifesto pledge to scrap Universal Infant Free School Meals.
The controversial policy was ditched following the public outcry over moves to end free lunches for all five- to seven-year-olds and replace the service with subsidised breakfasts.
Shadrack told LACA's showcase Main Event in Birmingham: "It should never be one or the other, breakfast or lunch. It should be both."
It was the second time in two years that universal infant free school meals (UIFSM) had faced the axe and there needed to be a proper evaluation of the policy by the government, said Shadrack. Only 12% of the public had been in favour of ditching UIFSM, according to a poll, and up to 17,000 staff would have lost their jobs if the proposal had gone ahead.
In a thinly-veiled attack on the Tory leadership, Shadrack said: "We believe that providing children with a daily meal is not a point for political debate and should never be used as a political football."
She said MPs of all political persuasions needed to be shown the benefits of "free, hot, healthy school meals".
Shadrack told delegates that the school catering sector was a "force to be reckoned with", adding: "When we pull together, when we work hard, when we use our expertise, we are hard to ignore."
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