Two backbench Liberal Democrat MPs have called on the coalition Government to save school meals from public sector spending cuts.
Annette Brooke and Bob Russell want education secretary Michael Gove to ring-fence cash for good school food, which they say is essential to protect child health, improve behaviour and "maximise pupils' ability to learn and achieve".
The MPs urged Gove to "follow the Food for Life Partnership's recommendations to protect the school meals service from the pressures of local authority spending cuts by introducing a minimum spend per pupil for ingredients, enabling a virtuous circle of improved food quality and increased take-up of school lunches" in a Commons motion yesterday.
Brooke and Russell made the comments after Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said last week that people needed to take responsibility for their own health.
They said they were "alarmed" that a quarter of children were now overweight or obese and warned that this made children more likely to suffer from serious health problems in life, costing the NHS £10b a year.
Both recognised the "significant contribution" made by the schools catering industry and the 100,000 jobs in the UK economy which depend on it, adding their belief that local procurement could also serve to support British farming.
Planned cuts to local authorities were likely to also slash school meals spending, they said, which would "jeopardise the quality and many benefits of the school meals service".
In a speech at the British Medical Association's conference in Brighton last week, Lansley said that TV chef Jamie Oliver's school food campaign had resulted in the number of children taking school meals falling rather than rising and that efforts to improve school food had failed.
Caterer and Hotelkeeper and the Local Authority Caterers Association is seeking support of its School Meals Matter campaign, which calls on the Government to commit to continued support of the school meals service. For more details and to sign the petition, visit www.caterersearch.com/SMM.
By Janie Stamford
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