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Dinner on the Menu
Friday 9th July, 2010

As the national uptake figures for school meals are published, managers at Wigan Council are reminding parents and pupils of the importance of a high quality meal in the middle of the day.

The annual survey of school lunch take up for the 2009-10 year, carried out by the School Food Trust and the Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA), shows that take up of healthy school lunches has increased in both primary and secondary schools, with an extra third of a million pupils opting for a healthy lunch this year compared to last.

In primary schools, the proportion of children eating a school lunch rose from 39.3 percent in 2008-09 to 41.4 percent in 2009-10, a 2.1 percentage point increase. Secondary schools saw a 0.8 percentage point rise from 35 percent in 2008-09 to 35.8 percent in 2009-10.

MetroFresh, who provide these meals in the majority of the borough’s schools, are continuing to work closely with schools and parents to deliver the message that a healthy meal is an essential part of the school day.

Cllr Susan Loudon, the cabinet’s champion for young people, says: “MetroFresh offers a nutritionally balanced, value for money school lunch to over 17,000 pupils every day. On a charity event last year I served just a few dozen meals with them at one school, so I know how dedicated the staff are.”

School meal price in primary schools will remain at £1.85 from September. This is the third consecutive year without a rise.

MetroFresh operate all primary school meals and 17 out of 20 high schools and the number of meals served continues to increase in Wigan Borough despite what some saw as controversial menu changes to meet Government nutrient-based standards introduced in 2008 for primary schools and 2009 for high schools.

MetroFresh manager Debbie Clarke adds: “Meal uptake in the primary sector has increased from last year from 36.2% from 36.9%. There’s been a slight reduction in the high schools based on free school meal take up, and we are addressing this with new cashless catering systems in the Autumn term.“

Free school meal uptake in the primary sector is the highest it has been for a decade and meal numbers are back to where they were before the intervention of chef Jamie Oliver when food based standards fundamentally changed the food which could be served in schools.

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