Nutrition suffers as food bills rise

Pupils at St George's School in the canteen and (below) head teacher Dan Berry.
Pupils at St George's School in the canteen and (below) head teacher Dan Berry.
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A BLACKPOOL headteacher has warned pupil nutrition will suffer as the recession tightens its grip.

Dan Berry, head teacher of St George’s says he fears pupils on free school meals could be left going hungry as a result of rising costs.

St George's  head teacher Dan Berry.

St George's head teacher Dan Berry.

The school council at the Marton site has called for an increase to the £1.90 allocated for free school meals.

They say buying a hot meal, dessert and drink now tops the £2 mark, meaning many will forfeit the hot food option.

Last year in Blackpool, more than one in four school children – 26.7 per cent – were eligible for free school meals.

Mr Berry said: “The rising cost of food and school dinner prices is a significant issue.

“A pupil with free dinners gets a very limited amount to spend as prices have slowly crept up.

“It means pupils may only buy a sandwich instead of a hot meal.

“If you consider this may be the only proper warm meal they get in a day, it’s very worrying.”

Youth charity The Prince’s Trust, have issued a report highlighting the devastating impact of the recession across England.

The survey found almost half of secondary school teachers regularly witness pupils suffering from malnutrition.

Simon Blackburn, leader of Blackpool Council has confirmed making sure children eat properly is a priority.

He said: “School meals are a vitally important and their impact cannot be over-estimated.

“Research shows children who receive a healthy, nutritious lunch are more likely to attend school, behave better, and learn more.

“Sadly, a school meal is the only balanced hot meal some of our children receive every day.

“Our school meals service is good, but needs to be better.

“Following May’s Annual Council meeting, I shall be taking on the executive responsibility for this function, to ensure it remains a key area of focus for the council.”

Bosses from Blackpool Council’s School Catering service say they are working hard to keep costs down in the face of increased fees.

Steve Crawshaw, manager says it faces a rise of 10 per cent on some food bills. But making sure food remains nutritionally rich and affordable is a priority.

Mr Crawshaw said: “I’m delighted the council is committed to keeping school catering a key focus. We haven’t put prices up and are looking at how we can make sure the free school meal allowance goes up in line with inflation.

“We make sure there is at least one meal option a day where students can get a hot meal, sweet and a drink on the allowance.

“Nutrition is important, it is concerning in secondary schools only 79 per cent of students eligible for school meals take them.

“It is a worry what those children are eating.”