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We pledge to maintain school meal size and quality despite rising food and fuel bills

Published: 8 July 2022

The size and quality of our school meals for primary pupils across the county will remain the same next year despite rising food, fuel and energy costs.

While some authorities are reported to have reduced meal size or use cheaper ingredients as wholesale prices rise, we have committed to maintaining our current high standard by approving a below-inflation 10p increase on the price of a primary school meal from September.

The increase will not affect families of key stage 1 pupils, who receive free school meals under the Universal Infant Free School Meals scheme or families of pupils who are eligible for benefit-related free school meals.

Our Cabinet Member for Education Councillor Alex Dale said:

“The increase is of course a decision we’ve made reluctantly, even a small price increase like this is unwelcome and particularly now, but I am more reluctant to compromise on the size and quality of our children’s meals and that is something we as a school catering service did not want to do.

“We want every primary school pupil to benefit from a nutritious, healthy, hot school meal at lunchtime and don’t want to compromise on quality, healthy ingredients or to reduce meal portion sizes.

“Our school kitchens are affected by the same pressures all families are facing with rising food, fuel, and energy prices, and take-up levels for school meals have also still not recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

“Therefore this modest increase, which we’ve worked hard to keep affordable for families at 4.5% of the price of a school meal and well below the current 9.1% rate of inflation, will ensure primary school children can continue to enjoy a high-quality meal every day.

“Our School Catering Service has been doing a fantastic job in difficult circumstances, including navigating rising costs and complex changes in demand due to COVID and this change will allow our staff to continue playing their vital role to help give children the best start in life.”

Our school catering service currently provides around 50,000 meals across the county each day but has seen demand reduce since the pandemic and take-up for primary, special, and secondary schools has not yet recovered to 2019 levels.

One of the initiatives the service has already developed to increase uptake is to launch 2 new brands for school meals. ‘Food Explorers’ focuses on younger pupils by sparking their curiosity around food, widening their knowledge of different foods from around the world, and taking more interest in their own diet, while ‘Food Central’ is aimed at creating an appealing, sophisticated and healthy eating experience for older pupils.

Councillor Dale added:

“Our amazing catering team is always looking at new and innovative ways to increase the appeal of school meals to all pupils across Derbyshire and these 2 new brands are doing a great job of creating a buzz around eating good quality, healthy food at school.”

While schools can set their own meal prices we set a recommended price for schools across the county.