Sat, 18 May 2019
THE cost of a school meal in Hampshire is set to go up by 10 pence from September.
Parents across the county will be asked to pay £2.40 instead of £2.30 for a hot two-course meal.
Unpredictable weather, Brexit and alternatives to single-use plastic have been blamed for the increase.
The decision was made by civic chiefs at Hampshire County Council (HCC) last Wednesday, when they also agreed that the schools will continue to be charged £2.30 per meal for those provided under the Government’s Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM) grant.
A council spokesperson said: “The revised charge reflects inflationary pressures associated with food costs and staff pay which rose by 6.4 per cent in April 2019, when the hourly pay rate for catering assistants was increased nationally.
“Over 90 per cent of the cost of a school meal covers food and staff costs, with related overheads accounting for the remainder.
“Supplying school meals at cost keeps the price as low as possible for Hampshire families and ensures they receive value for money.”
HCC said its in-house catering service HC3S continues to deliver efficiencies where possible “to offset some of these large inflationary pressures”.
However, it added that small changes in costs can have a significant impact on the total cost of the school meals service in Hampshire – as an increase of one penny on the cost of food per meal would cost HC3S an additional £114,000 a year.
The authority said the rise represents a 4.3 per cent increase and it is compared to the hourly pay rate for catering assistants rising by 6.4 per cent.
TaxPayers’ Alliance research director Duncan Simpson said: “The National Living Wage and introduction of infant free school meals has meant vast increases in costs for schools across the country.
“Arbitrarily raising the cost of labour and not tallying that up with Government policy leads to outcomes such as these in Hampshire. ”
HC3S has been recognised by the Soil Association for the second year running for its use of fresh, locally-sourced ingredients to produce nutritious food and awarded the Food For Life Served Here (Bronze) Award.