The GMB union has added its weight to demands for Kingston upon Hull City Council to reverse plans to scrap free school meals.
The Liberal Democrat-led council came under fire last month from parents, headteachers and Labour councillors for proposing to ditch the scheme on cost grounds, despite the health benefits it has driven (Caterer, 1 February, page 7](http://www.caterersearch.com/Articles/2007/02/01/311234/hull-votes-to-call-halt-to-free-school-meals-programme.htm)).
A study by Hull University revealed that uptake of school meals has doubled in the past year to 64% across the region, compared with the national average of 43%.
The GMB is today (1 March) protesting against the proposal to scrap the scheme, ahead of a council meeting on the issue when a final decision is due. It follows protests on 23 and 26 February.
GMB organiser Les Dobbs said the union fears job cuts among dinner ladies and a drop in standards.
"They are now training the women up to a good standard of catering and cooking because of healthy meals, and our members like that," he said. "Hull is now miles ahead of everyone else in this respect. This is an incentive which the people of Hull are proud of."
Liberal Democrat leader of the council Carl Menzies has consistently opposed the scheme and moved to scrap it since his party took control in May 2006. He said that those who can't afford to pay will still receive free meals under the existing means-testing system and that it is "unfair" to ask Hull's council taxpayers to foot the school meals bill.
By Daniel Thomas
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