School caterers will be able to use next year's £240m tranche of school meals funding as they see fit, it was revealed at the Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA) annual conference.
Speaking at the conference in Birmingham, Prue Leith the chairman of the School Food Trust said after talks with the new Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families the money would no longer be ring-fenced for higher quality ingredients.
"The Government has now agreed it can be used anything related to the school meals service such as the extra training and wages required for staff producing higher quality food or new equipment," she said.
Although the funding itself, covering 2008 to 2010, and the greater flexibility on how it is spent will be welcomed, school meals caterers believe it is still too little in the face of falling meal uptake and a lack of kitchen infrastructure at many sites.
LACA national chairman Irene Carroll opened the event entitled "From Here to Reality" with a call to the Government to really back the massive transformation being undertaken in the school meals service at present.
"I wonder if the Government has any idea how much pressure caterers are now under to cut deficits?," she asked. "If the politicians are serious about this and want to reduce obesity and get real results they must fund the service properly."
By Chris Druce
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