Dishing up Sheffield school dinner price rise

Price rise: School dinners in Sheffield.
Price rise: School dinners in Sheffield.

SCHOOL meals are costing more in Sheffield schools this term - even though council chiefs say they are refusing to pass on all of the rising price of food to parents.

However primary pupils are still being charged 6p more and secondary students 10p more - a four per cent and five per cent increase respectively.

Nursery pupils are now paying £1.75, primary pupils £1.98, and secondary and secondary special school students £2.03.

With food prices currently increasing at an annual rate of 6.2 per cent, councillors argue families are still getting a good deal.

But the price rises are still above a national average increase of 2.5 per cent discovered in a survey by Which? magazine last week.

Some authorities have introduced huge price hikes - Doncaster has introduced a 17 per cent increase with primary meals costing £2 and secondary £2.10.

Coun Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for children, young people and families, said: “Food costs have gone up and we are all feeling the pinch as a consequence.

“We only have to look at our weekly shopping bill to see this.

“But we are protecting Sheffield children from these rising costs by giving them better quality food while keeping the price as low as possible.”

A new contractor has taken over at 121 city schools this term, including special schools, nurseries and children’s centres as part of a £48 million deal.

Taylor Shaw has promised to deliver better quality, locally sourced food with menus tailored to suit individual schools.

The company is keen to make sure children get their five a day – making pizza bases from carrots and courgettes and chocolate cake from beetroot and cocoa.

Another priority over the next five years is to get all school meals cooked on site – bringing an end to meals having to be transported into schools.

But it faces a challenge to increase sales - fewer primary pupils eat school meals in Sheffield compared with the rest of South Yorkshire.

Latest figures showed only 38 per cent of pupils eat school lunches in the city compared with 58 per cent in Doncaster and 50 per cent in Barnsley.

Andrew Truby, headteacher at St Thomas of Canterbury School at Meadowhead, said: “The children are already remarking this week what a difference the food is this term. How much more choice there is and just how tasty it all is.

“We chose Taylor Shaw as our preferred bidder - the reason we liked the company so much was the fact it was willing to work in consultation with parents and children as well as the school on individually targeted menus.”

Council school meals manager Leah Barratt said meals had to be of a certain standard to meet Government guidelines on nutrition.

“Hungry children don’t learn and packed lunches rarely come up to the same nutritional standard as a school meal so when the convenience factor is put into the mix, school meals make sense,” she added.