The Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA) is supporting an MP's call for all academy and free schools to comply with the mandatory school food standards.
Zac Goldsmith MP has tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons, asking the Government to ensure food catered for in academy schools meets the nutritional standards legislation.
LACA has been asking the Government since early last year to establish a single set of standards that are applicable for all schools. It believes that there is serious potential for the progress made in improving school food over the past six years to be derailed by the lack of action in ensuring universal nutritional standards for all pupils.
Chair of LACA Lynda Mitchell said that, despite approaches by LACA to the education secretary and other ministers, the concerns of school caterers - as well as those of many other influential bodies and individuals such as Jamie Oliver - had fallen on deaf ears.
"Despite the education secretary's confidence that academy head teachers will apply the same nutritional standards as for other schools, LACA has advised that it has evidence that these are being breached or relaxed, in some cases, which is obviously to the detriment of pupils," said Mitchell.
"With academies being open for longer hours, providing a wider range of meals from breakfast to after-school food, it is vital that the same standards apply equally to these establishments so that parents can be confident that whichever school their children attend, they can be sure that the school food remains the best possible option for their children."
"Many of those in the industry who have worked so hard to provide the high-class service that we have now, are frustrated that a two-tier system is being allowed to develop and can see how this could impact on not only the provision of demonstrably healthier meals but also on the future of the industry."
Mitchell added that the improvements to children's eating habits that have been brought about by healthy school food over the past few years could not be ignored and that the one million or more children who attend academies should also be able to reap the benefits of nutritional standards.
"Safeguarding their future health and wellbeing could be helped by making one small amendment to the legislation to ensure the same set of standards are applicable to all schools," she said. "That's one public health improvement initiative which involves a zero investment."
By Janet Harmer
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