Leading school meals providers and sector experts believe the worst is now over for the primary school dinners service post Jamie Oliver.
At a Caterer round table debate held last month, supported by Apetito, the participants from both local authority direct service organisations and food service companies said the primary school food service was now heading into a period of growth.
Last summer the Local Authority Caterers Association reported uptake at primary school level had fallen to a low of 40%, although it added that the rate of decline appeared to be bottoming out.
Successes highlighted at the debate included the London borough of Ealing, where Harrison Catering Services operates the contract in 60 primary and special schools.
Bill Graney, manager of the Harrison contract in Ealing, said: "We have had a 3% growth in uptake this year."
Alan Bowey, operations director of Sodexho Education, reported a dramatic rise in take up numbers in another London borough, Richmond, despite being described by the previous contractor as unviable.
In the eight months the contractor has run the service it has seen a 70% increase in the number of meals served across the borough each day from 2,100 to 3,700.
"By demonstrating that the quality of the food we serve is high, we gained the confidence of parents and teachers and take-up numbers started to rise rapidly," he said.
For the round table debate on primary school meals in full see this week's Caterer and Hotelkeeper (8 May).
By Janet Harmer
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