I’m not sure there was ever a time when the school meals industry got so involved in politics as it does today. School meals is at times a real political football and it’s so important for us not to be kicked around. When the General Election was called, understandably there was fear, as this could mean the end of Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM). I know a few people in the industry who have written to each party to remind them of the importance of UIFSM. Some of you might say, “No prime minister would ever dare to remove UIFSM.” But are we so immune to cuts? I don’t think so. When Labour announced that it would extend UIFSM to all primary school-age children, school meals became part of the political game ahead of the election and we need to cross our fingers that whatever happens on 8th June will be in our favour. UIFSM isn’t the only issue that our industry is drawing MP’s attention to. I recently attended the Brakes UK Child Food Insecurity Forum on the day that the Hungry Holidays report was published, where there was a plea to everyone to lobby the MPs writing manifestos to get holiday feeding on the political landscape (see page 42). Leaders, be they a prime minister or a head teacher, are people who we all must learn to coerce and influence, and the only way we can do that is to present the facts – as LACA is hoping to do with its UIFSM research – and demonstrate best practice in what we do best. And there is plenty of that going around. Our most recent EDUcatering Forum took place on 3rd May and this was a key theme of the day – showing all levels of leadership our commitment to feeding children tasty, healthy and nutritious meals that help to reduce child obesity and where possible, to reduce child hunger too (read more on page 20). We had a fabulous line-up of speakers who filled everyone with the enthusiasm to do more to combat the many challenges the industry faces – from budget cuts to obesity and hunger in the holidays – and work together to achieve it. It is events such as this that remind me what a wonderful industry the school meals sector is.
The ability of local authorities to intervene in schools has been sharply curtailed by central government funding reforms. Does this really matter? Jane Renton asks Apse.Read More