School meals - no records

DESPITE spending nearly £500,000 of taxpayers' money in three years on improving school meals North Somerset Council keeps no record of the

DESPITE spending nearly £500,000 of taxpayers' money in three years on improving school meals North Somerset Council keeps no record of the total number of pupils eating them.The unitary authority has received money from central government since 2005 to improve the quality of school meals but it does not keep a record of whether their uptake has gone up or down.It was given £106,000 for 2005/06, £181,000 for 2006/07 and £182,500 for 2007/07.Concerns over child obesity figures hit the national headlines again this week and earlier this year North Somerset Primary Care Trust even introduced the concept of weighing school pupils as young as 10. North Somerset Council was among the authorities which focussed on improving youngsters' health through providing more nutritious school meals.Despite ploughing some of the money into improving and enhancing menus in primary schools in areas of 'high social deprivation,' carrying out market research among students and parents and promoting the school meals service, the unitary authority only keeps a record of free school meals because it pays for them.Linda Mitchell, who is in charge of school meal contracts across North Somerset, said: "Schools provide their own meals there is no requirement for us to keep a record of the paid for ones."In effect secondary schools have 'cash canteens' and the contractors bank the money and then put some of it back into providing the meals."Primary schools keep a record because they take a register of how many children will need a school meal each day into the kitchen staff."But this does not happen in secondary schools. The chances are they would not be able to say how many students are eating school meals."There will be a requirement for us to provide these figures to central government. There is no definitive way for us to do this but we are working on some software for that and expect it to come into effect in April.


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