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Wiltshire council to review Sodexho's school meals service

01 July 2004
Wiltshire council to review Sodexho's school meals service

Wiltshire County Council has launched a review into the school meals provided by contract caterer Sodexho following complaints about value for money.

Sodexho took on the seven-year contract - along with contracts for cleaning, grounds maintenance, and home-delivered meals - from Wiltshire Direct Services in June 2001.

An annual report on the school meals element concluded that it remained "contentious and problematic". The review, which has been spearheaded by local councillors, will run for three months from the first meeting in a few weeks' time.

Value for money is a key concern. Many schools question the £2,600 each has to pay above the cost of the meals, which is vital for Sodexho to cover management costs and keep the contract financially viable.

Other issues concerned the take-up of meals, which has improved by 5% since Sodexho introduced variety and choice at individual schools.

The council's scrutiny officer Paul Kelly said Sodexho currently covered 119 schools when it had budgeted on 170 taking up its service. This shortfall, he said, had presented problems for the contract caterer from day one and hampered its ability to introduce innovations.

The report found that menus appealed to pupils but not to adults, and the task force will examine the challenge of balancing differing wishes. It will also investigate the "potential long-term health and social benefits of school meals".

A statement from Sodexho Education said that it enjoyed a good working relationship with Wiltshire County Council. "We fully support the council's proactive initiative, which has been implemented because of concerns at a small number of schools, highlighted by Sodexho in its annual service review.

"The review also highlighted that following the annual customer survey 84% of children rated the quality and choice offered by Sodexho as good or very good, and 80% believed the service was delivered in a professional manner."

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