Scrapping school meals is an ‘ill thought out reversal’ – LACA chair

Scrapping school meals is an ‘ill thought out reversal’ – LACA chair
Sally Shadrack - Scrapping UIFSM will have a significant negative impact on children and parents
18/05/2017 - 15:44
The Lead Association for CAtering in Education (LACA) chair, Sally Shadrack, has criticised the Conservative Party’s announcement to replace universal infant free school meals (UIFSM) with a new breakfast scheme as an ‘ill thought out reversal’.

The Conservatives made the pledge to end the scheme this morning at the launch of its manifesto and replace it with a free school breakfast initiative to increase the overall schools budget by £4 billion by 2022.

LACA stated that the scheme, which when piloted by the government was found to benefit children’s productivity and academic performance, also saves parents the high cost of providing a packed lunch, and feeds a hot and healthy meal to an extra one million children a year.

Sally Shadrack, LACA chair, said: “This is an ill thought out reversal of a policy, which our members have seen had positive effects. Scrapping it will not only have a significant negative impact on children and parents - the latter of whom will lose £437 a year - but also on the education catering industry and food suppliers in terms of jobs and investment.
“Just four years ago the government spent millions of pounds of taxpayer money revamping school kitchens across the country in order to feed more children, dining rooms were extended and school and catering staff were trained to accommodate the extra numbers. Since this significant investment of public money the government have carried out no analysis of the success of this policy to date, yet they claim that replacing it with breakfast will have a comparable effect.

“In Wales, where breakfasts are already offered for free to all primary school children, less than a quarter were taking up the opportunity at the last Welsh government census in 2016. Switching lunch for breakfast will not simply transfer nutritional intake between meals, it will likely significantly reduce it, while increasing costs for schools and parents across England.
“We are calling for a departmental review of the policy before it is arbitrarily scrapped and the causes of improving childhood nutrition and child poverty are unnecessarily set back. Ensuring the current generation of children become the next generation of healthy adults should be an utmost priority for any government."

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrat parties have pledged to continue the scheme in their respective manifestos, but the Conservative Party believes the scheme is not a ‘sensible use of public money’ and pledges that the money raised by scrapping it will help towards raising £4 billion for the overall schools budget.

The general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), Russell Hobby, said: “Their remedy to take money away from universal infant free school meals to help plug this gap is disappointing. This is just moving money around inside the system.”

The Children’s Food Trust’s chief executive, Linda Cregan also expressed her disappointment at the proposal: “As part of the obesity plan there was a cross government plan to widen universal infant free school meals to include breakfasts, recognising the importance of a sustained good diet throughout the day, and its benefits in regards to attainment and later life health.

“But instead now they propose to take lunches away. This is a huge blow and we would question their on-going commitment to what has been described as the biggest health crisis facing a generation of children.
“The future government should now publicly back the Free School Meals Bill with provision in school holidays to tackle holiday hunger which will be presented to Parliament after the general election.
“Child poverty is escalating, nine children in a class of 30 now live in poverty. Free school meals are more important now than ever before. We are calling on the next government to commit to long term solutions and recognise children’s right to eat well.”

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