The school meals system faces collapse three years after chef campaigner Jamie Oliver thrust the issue into the public consciousness, the Government has been warned.
In an open letter to schools secretary Ed Balls, The Food for Life Partnership, which is administered by the Soil Association, said the majority of school caterers are running at deficits they can no longer sustain.
Food for Life, backed by the Local Authority Caterers Association, the Caroline Walker Trust and Sustain, has demanded urgent action from the Government and additional funding for the struggling school dinner system.
Emma Noble, director of the Food for Life Partnership, said: "The Government needs to rescue the school meals service or it will end up serving no-one.
"School meals provide one of the most important tools the Government has to tackle obesity, diet-related ill health and the significant contributions to greenhouse gas emissions made by farming and food. They must act now."
The coalition has called on the Government to adopt a six-step plan, which it claims will require an extra £291.5m a year to fund.
The steps are:
- Every pupil to eat healthy and climate-friendly school meals by 2015.
- School meals to be run as an Education Service, not a commercial business.
- 50p per pupil per school meal from Government to achieve a £1 ingredient spend while allowing take-up to rise.
- More paid hours for school cooks to prepare fresh food.
- At least 12 hours of cooking lessons a year for every pupil up to key stage 3 by 2011.
- Every pupil to have direct experience of food growing and production, in school gardens and on farms, by 2011.
Sandra Russell, chair of the Local Authority Caterers Association, said: "If the Government is really serious about the value of school meals within the education service they need to heed the principles of the Food for Life Partnership's six step rescue plan."
By Chris Druce
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