£16m cash injection into school meals sector

The catering equipment supply chain looks set to benefit from a new blueprint to massively increase the uptake of school dinners in the UK.

The School Food Plan, written by Leon restaurant chain founders Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, was published on Friday with the aim of “putting the kitchen at the heart of school life”.

It includes a range of actions to drive up standards and divert some of the £1 billion that parents currently spend on packed lunches back into the system.

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Actions in the plan include a £16m cash injection from the Department for Education over the next two years.

This includes almost £12m that organisations such as the Children’s Food Trust and the Food For Life Partnership can bid for to help turn around schools that are struggling with their lunch service, and £3m to ensure healthy breakfasts are available for thousands of children who arrive at school hungry.

The manifesto also recommends a checklist for headteachers to help improve the ‘food culture’, while Tthe Department for Education will test and introduce a set of revised food based standards, with the intention of applying them to maintained schools and all new academies and free schools by September 2014.

The Leon restaurant pair have spent the past year looking into the school meal situation after accepting an invitation from the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, to establish plans for increasing the number of children eating good food in schools.

John Vincent said their research had revealed that increasing take-up is not something that can be done from the top-down. Instead, it requires a cultural change within each school, he said.

“It means cooking food that is both appetising and nutritious, making the dining hall a welcoming place, keeping queues down, getting the price right, allowing children to eat with their friends; getting them interested in cooking and growing,” he said.

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