School dinner uptake at England's secondary schools has dropped to its lowest ever level as pupils continue to shun Jamie Oliver inspired healthy menus, research revealed today.
The School Food Trust's (SFT) third annual survey of school meals uptake shows that post Jamie Oliver and the resulting slump in uptake, the secondary meals service remains in distress.
The report, produced in association with the Local Authority Caterers Association, shows school dinner take-up at secondary slipped a further 0.5% to 37.2% this year.
Last year's reported figure of 37.7% for secondary schools was described at the time by experts as the lowest since the school dinner service was set up after the Second World War.
However, the SFT drew some comfort from the fall in the actual rate of decline, which was 0.5% for 2007/08 compared with 5% a year ago.
There was also better news at primary school level, where school dinner uptake increased 2.3% year-on-year to 43.6%.
On balance, this equates to another 50,000 children within education taking school dinners a day.
Judy Hargadon, chief executive of the SFT, said: "This survey demonstrates that the huge effort that schools and caterers are putting in is beginning to succeed in changing the tastes and habits of a new generation of children."
Sandra Russell, chairman of LACA, said: "LACA is encouraged to see an upturn in primary school meal numbers although the continued decline in secondary meal uptake is still of concern."
Last month the Food for Life Partnership wrote to schools secretary Ed Balls demanding immediate action and more funding to avoid the collapse of the school dinners system.
By Chris Druce
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