Fears free school meals will be starved of funding

GROWING CONCERNS:  Worries over funding for free school meals. Inset, Toni Coombs.

GROWING CONCERNS: Worries over funding for free school meals. Inset, Toni Coombs.

First published in News
Last updated
Dorset Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

CONCERNS are growing that plans to bring in free school meals for infants across Dorset are being rushed in with not enough funding.

Under the Government’s plan every child in reception, Year 1 and Year 2 in state-funded schools will receive a free school lunch from September 2014.

But with only six months to go until the start of the scheme, council bosses, teachers and suppliers said they have concerns about the delivery.

While everyone is in agreement that the idea behind the plan is good, there are fears there won’t be enough money available or enough time to make all the changes necessary.

The government has allocated a pot of £883,430 for Dorset County Council to buy equipment for schools, like ovens, food servers and fridges.

But the money is just for capital expenditure and not for staffing, council bosses said.

A spokesman for Dorset County Council said they would go from providing around 3,500 free school meals to a target of around 12,000, once the universal free school meals plan was implemented.

The county council is currently in the process of tendering for a new food provider and are hoping the contract will be awarded soon.

They are currently auditing schools to see who needs what equipment to get ready for the new scheme.

Speaking to the Echo, Toni Coombs, Dorset County Council’s cabinet member for education, said that it would be a ‘large ask’ to be ready to go by September.

She said: “We are going to do our best. We have the best interests of Dorset children at heart.”

The food contractors are currently in the process of re-tendering for the DCC contract for the new school year.

When asked if £883,430 was enough to fund the project, Mrs Coombs said she was concerned it would not be.

She said: “There are over 100 schools that are eligible and they all need something.

“It’s not a huge amount per school, that’s the difficulty we have got.”

When asked if additional money would need to be provided by DCC, Mrs Coombs said: “I will expect we will have to.”

She added that the money may have to come out of the Modernising Schools Project.

She said: “Depending on what the impact is, we will have to see how we restructure projects down the line.”

If they had to put additional money towards providing school meal infrastructure, then there could be other things that would have to go down the line, Mrs Coombs said.

When asked if it was just another pressure put on DCC by the government, Mrs Coombs said: “Yes.”

While everyone thought the idea of providing free school meals was good and provided health and social benefits, Mrs Coombs said her concerns were about how it was being implemented.

She said DCC ‘will do our best to deliver in time in September’.

She added: “We want to do the best for our schools and for our children.

“It’s all been rushed and it’s a shame. This could be a really good news story.”

 

'Means test'

The Echo posed the question on our Facebook page – asking what parents thought of the plans for free school lunches for infant pupils, did they think they were a good idea? Or a waste of money?
Here are just some of the comments.
Nadine Stone said: “All children should get it and it shouldn’t necessarily be a hot meal if the parents want to eat as a family in the evenings.
“There are a lot of working middle earning families who are struggling to feed their children every day but get no help. I think it’s a fab idea.”
Nicola Long said: “I think it’s a good idea. Too many kids aren’t getting the right food at home.”
Anita Sherriff said: “I’ve got two words to say: about time.”
James Tipping commented saying that every child should get a free meal, not just those ‘in need,’ and that meals should be from local suppliers using local food.
But Laura Ann Spicer said: “No, I would rather give my children a packed lunch, full of healthy food, not the rubbish they get fed at school – even if it’s supposed to healthy food, it isn’t.
“I like to cook for my children at tea time. I wouldn’t want them having two cooked meals a day.”
Yvonne Eve Retter said: “It’s just a carrot for the electorate. Don’t forget the elections are coming up.”
Chris Stone added: “It is a good idea but it should be means-tested. If a family is earning thousands per week then they don’t need a free meal.”
David Fisher said: “In principle I think it’s good idea. My only concern is how it's going to be funded.”

Provision will double

HEADTEACHER at Radipole Primary School Veronique Singer said their provision for hot school meals would double when the new scheme started in September.
She said that while she thought the idea of nutritious hot school meals for pupils was a good one, the issue was the way it had been implemented.
The school built its kitchen in summer 2011.
Mrs Singer, pictured, said: “We do have capacity and I planned for that and I know what we will need in terms of expansion, equipment and staff we will need and I have lots of that in place.
“The idea of having a nutritional hot meal during the day is very good.
“The problem for me is the money.”
She said she was concerned the money would not cover the things they needed including staff to help deliver the new scheme.
Mrs Singer said she was in a fortunate position in that they had the infrastructure and the room to put new equipment in.
She added: “There are lots of schools that just don’t have the room.”

 

'It's a challenge for all involved'

A DORSET school food provider said the new scheme was a challenge for schools and caterers.
Caroline Morgan, chief executive of Local Food Links Ltd, pictured inset, said their not-for-profit organisation supplies fresh school meals to students in 29 Dorset schools from the company’s bases in Bridport, Blandford and mini site at Dorchester Middle School.
They use locally sourced ingredients, which are either delivered chilled to schools and cooked fresh or delivered hot and ready to be served.
Although the idea of giving youngsters hot meals was a ‘fantastic’ one, Mrs Morgan said that they had needed to take a loan to buy new equipment to cover the big increase in the numbers they would be providing for.
She added that it was a challenge for schools and suppliers in such a short space of time.
She said: “If everybody had had more time it would have been very different, but we are where we are.
“We are working hard to try and support our schools.”
She added: “It’s an absolutely huge expansion in a short space of time.
“It’s a real challenge for schools and for us as an organisation.”
The policy was generally a good idea, Mrs Morgan said.
“I think it’s a good thing for Dorset. I think the culture of school meals has been eroded over the years.
“I think it’s fantastic – it will make having a hot meal at school normal again.”

Local provider

DORSET school meals will be provided by a Dorset company, council bosses have promised.
The new provider for Dorset’s school meals will be ‘locally based’ and provide locally sourced meals to the highest standard, Dorset County Council said.
The Echo revealed last year how school meals were travelling more than 200 miles across country each day from a factory in Nottingham.
More than 100 schools in Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole were getting their meals from Cygnet Catering – although schools were able to opt out of the scheme and some made their own arrangements to provide meals.
The tender process is in its final stages.
A spokesman for Dorset County Council said: “We are still finalising the tender. But at the end of the tender process Dorset will have a provider that will be locally based using locally sourced food, produced to the gold standard.”

Free meals will help

ROS KAYES, parliamentary spokesman for the Liberal Democrats in West Dorset said she believed the new scheme would deal with several problems at once including: helping those on low incomes and helping youngsters to eat healthily.
She said: “I think it’s a really good idea.”
She said she supported initiatives like Dorset Food Links.
Mrs Kayes added that that she did not think there would be in issue with delivering the new scheme.
She said: “I don’t think there will be a problem.
“I think Dorset have got themselves very well organised round it.”
But she added: “It would have been more useful to have a longer lead in time.”
Nationally there was a concern that the scheme had been rushed in but Mrs Kayes, inset, said that in Dorset the staff at DCC were really ‘on top of it’ from what she had seen.
She said: “I think it was put in place with a shorter run in time than would have been ideal.”

 


 

Comments (13)

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7:36am Thu 27 Mar 14

cj07589 says...

Here is a novel idea, how about being a responsible parent and feed your own children! The elections couldn't come soon enough sick and tired of the liberals buying votes from the great unwashed subsidised by those who work full time and also struggle to put food on the table and pay the sky rocketing bills and get no help whatsoever.
Here is a novel idea, how about being a responsible parent and feed your own children! The elections couldn't come soon enough sick and tired of the liberals buying votes from the great unwashed subsidised by those who work full time and also struggle to put food on the table and pay the sky rocketing bills and get no help whatsoever. cj07589
  • Score: 26

8:05am Thu 27 Mar 14

cosmick says...

The lib dens thought this would be a vote winner, but when it turns out there is not enought money it will come back and bite them. The only way children should be fed at school is by each school having a kitchen and staff. I agree with the statement before familys should feed there own kids. Although this may need a review of funding to some familys.
The lib dens thought this would be a vote winner, but when it turns out there is not enought money it will come back and bite them. The only way children should be fed at school is by each school having a kitchen and staff. I agree with the statement before familys should feed there own kids. Although this may need a review of funding to some familys. cosmick
  • Score: 16

8:59am Thu 27 Mar 14

woodsedge says...

I wouldn't worry to much about this policy as UKIP will not be in a position to change it.
I wouldn't worry to much about this policy as UKIP will not be in a position to change it. woodsedge
  • Score: -12

4:06pm Thu 27 Mar 14

cj07589 says...

woodsedge wrote:
I wouldn't worry to much about this policy as UKIP will not be in a position to change it.
I'm confused Woodsedge, so please feel free to enlighten us what on earth has UKIP got to do with this matter? I think its safe to say that most know your'e agenda. Only a thought, have you considered joining up with the Daily mail as they also enjoy a good non-factual predujuced smear campaign.
[quote][p][bold]woodsedge[/bold] wrote: I wouldn't worry to much about this policy as UKIP will not be in a position to change it.[/p][/quote]I'm confused Woodsedge, so please feel free to enlighten us what on earth has UKIP got to do with this matter? I think its safe to say that most know your'e agenda. Only a thought, have you considered joining up with the Daily mail as they also enjoy a good non-factual predujuced smear campaign. cj07589
  • Score: 11

4:14pm Thu 27 Mar 14

woodsedge says...

cj07589 wrote:
woodsedge wrote:
I wouldn't worry to much about this policy as UKIP will not be in a position to change it.
I'm confused Woodsedge, so please feel free to enlighten us what on earth has UKIP got to do with this matter? I think its safe to say that most know your'e agenda. Only a thought, have you considered joining up with the Daily mail as they also enjoy a good non-factual predujuced smear campaign.
Cj07589, I will enlighten you, Daily mail should have a capital 'M'
[quote][p][bold]cj07589[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]woodsedge[/bold] wrote: I wouldn't worry to much about this policy as UKIP will not be in a position to change it.[/p][/quote]I'm confused Woodsedge, so please feel free to enlighten us what on earth has UKIP got to do with this matter? I think its safe to say that most know your'e agenda. Only a thought, have you considered joining up with the Daily mail as they also enjoy a good non-factual predujuced smear campaign.[/p][/quote]Cj07589, I will enlighten you, Daily mail should have a capital 'M' woodsedge
  • Score: -13

4:43pm Thu 27 Mar 14

oldbrock says...

cj07589 wrote:
Here is a novel idea, how about being a responsible parent and feed your own children! The elections couldn't come soon enough sick and tired of the liberals buying votes from the great unwashed subsidised by those who work full time and also struggle to put food on the table and pay the sky rocketing bills and get no help whatsoever.
good post, I was going to suggest that schools were for LEARNING NOT a restaurant part time, single people are taxed enough now, helping to subsidize a service they may never use, in years gone by there was real poverty, today the house has to have TV and other media appliances but the owners still plead poverty, parents moan about the time to cook meals after a long working day, they moan about high costing childcare, hang on, who forced them to breed? if you have not got the income then surely it is foolhardy to procreate and expect others to chip in to help? Nobody wants to give anything up today when having a family, the lifestyle has to be kept up etc, sorry but there should be a choice, family and struggle a bit OR the single persons lifestyle, if the former is chosen then the pitfalls should be expected and surmounted by that family, not expecting to be bailed out for everything while they buy another TV or have another holiday they obviously cannot afford, this is the real world, the trouble is, nobody likes the truth
Fair enough, a cooked meal in the middle of the day but NOT free, if the parents can afford to breed they should be able to pay their way, not just expect others to pick up the tab
[quote][p][bold]cj07589[/bold] wrote: Here is a novel idea, how about being a responsible parent and feed your own children! The elections couldn't come soon enough sick and tired of the liberals buying votes from the great unwashed subsidised by those who work full time and also struggle to put food on the table and pay the sky rocketing bills and get no help whatsoever.[/p][/quote]good post, I was going to suggest that schools were for LEARNING NOT a restaurant part time, single people are taxed enough now, helping to subsidize a service they may never use, in years gone by there was real poverty, today the house has to have TV and other media appliances but the owners still plead poverty, parents moan about the time to cook meals after a long working day, they moan about high costing childcare, hang on, who forced them to breed? if you have not got the income then surely it is foolhardy to procreate and expect others to chip in to help? Nobody wants to give anything up today when having a family, the lifestyle has to be kept up etc, sorry but there should be a choice, family and struggle a bit OR the single persons lifestyle, if the former is chosen then the pitfalls should be expected and surmounted by that family, not expecting to be bailed out for everything while they buy another TV or have another holiday they obviously cannot afford, this is the real world, the trouble is, nobody likes the truth Fair enough, a cooked meal in the middle of the day but NOT free, if the parents can afford to breed they should be able to pay their way, not just expect others to pick up the tab oldbrock
  • Score: 14

5:38pm Thu 27 Mar 14

JamesYoung says...

cosmick wrote:
The lib dens thought this would be a vote winner, but when it turns out there is not enought money it will come back and bite them. The only way children should be fed at school is by each school having a kitchen and staff. I agree with the statement before familys should feed there own kids. Although this may need a review of funding to some familys.
To some families, maybe. However, most families with kids receive plenty of state benefits (you can go to turn2us.org - a charity site - and see what you would qualify for). There has been plenty in the news about kids arriving at school hungry, and parents saying they can't afford to feed them. The reality, of course, is that the families are making poor spending decisions.
The exception being families who have fallen foul of the idiots at Atos or the target-hitters at Job Centre+, introducing sanctions on the flimsiest of excuses.
[quote][p][bold]cosmick[/bold] wrote: The lib dens thought this would be a vote winner, but when it turns out there is not enought money it will come back and bite them. The only way children should be fed at school is by each school having a kitchen and staff. I agree with the statement before familys should feed there own kids. Although this may need a review of funding to some familys.[/p][/quote]To some families, maybe. However, most families with kids receive plenty of state benefits (you can go to turn2us.org - a charity site - and see what you would qualify for). There has been plenty in the news about kids arriving at school hungry, and parents saying they can't afford to feed them. The reality, of course, is that the families are making poor spending decisions. The exception being families who have fallen foul of the idiots at Atos or the target-hitters at Job Centre+, introducing sanctions on the flimsiest of excuses. JamesYoung
  • Score: 5

6:08pm Thu 27 Mar 14

cj07589 says...

woodsedge wrote:
cj07589 wrote:
woodsedge wrote:
I wouldn't worry to much about this policy as UKIP will not be in a position to change it.
I'm confused Woodsedge, so please feel free to enlighten us what on earth has UKIP got to do with this matter? I think its safe to say that most know your'e agenda. Only a thought, have you considered joining up with the Daily mail as they also enjoy a good non-factual predujuced smear campaign.
Cj07589, I will enlighten you, Daily mail should have a capital 'M'
I knew you're a closet DM reader thanks! Things must be looking up.
[quote][p][bold]woodsedge[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]cj07589[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]woodsedge[/bold] wrote: I wouldn't worry to much about this policy as UKIP will not be in a position to change it.[/p][/quote]I'm confused Woodsedge, so please feel free to enlighten us what on earth has UKIP got to do with this matter? I think its safe to say that most know your'e agenda. Only a thought, have you considered joining up with the Daily mail as they also enjoy a good non-factual predujuced smear campaign.[/p][/quote]Cj07589, I will enlighten you, Daily mail should have a capital 'M'[/p][/quote]I knew you're a closet DM reader thanks! Things must be looking up. cj07589
  • Score: 9

7:11pm Thu 27 Mar 14

Sigurd Hoberth says...

Is Woodsedge the whining mangina getting his hat handed to him again? That's nice.
Is Woodsedge the whining mangina getting his hat handed to him again? That's nice. Sigurd Hoberth
  • Score: 5

7:49pm Thu 27 Mar 14

woodsedge says...

JamesYoung wrote:
cosmick wrote:
The lib dens thought this would be a vote winner, but when it turns out there is not enought money it will come back and bite them. The only way children should be fed at school is by each school having a kitchen and staff. I agree with the statement before familys should feed there own kids. Although this may need a review of funding to some familys.
To some families, maybe. However, most families with kids receive plenty of state benefits (you can go to turn2us.org - a charity site - and see what you would qualify for). There has been plenty in the news about kids arriving at school hungry, and parents saying they can't afford to feed them. The reality, of course, is that the families are making poor spending decisions.
The exception being families who have fallen foul of the idiots at Atos or the target-hitters at Job Centre+, introducing sanctions on the flimsiest of excuses.
Nice to have a sensible contribution and one that I partly agree with. Families can indeed tap into all kinds of support but I do not believe that this is the only issue. The issue is that the so called adults of the children that appear at school hungry, dirty or in ill fitting clothes are the problem. In these cases it's not a case of not being able to afford to feed their children, it's more a case of the games console, sky tv and cigarettes come first. I would like to see some kind of school children's meal token form part of the benefits system, so that these families have no alternative than to feed their children at least one proper meal a day.
[quote][p][bold]JamesYoung[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]cosmick[/bold] wrote: The lib dens thought this would be a vote winner, but when it turns out there is not enought money it will come back and bite them. The only way children should be fed at school is by each school having a kitchen and staff. I agree with the statement before familys should feed there own kids. Although this may need a review of funding to some familys.[/p][/quote]To some families, maybe. However, most families with kids receive plenty of state benefits (you can go to turn2us.org - a charity site - and see what you would qualify for). There has been plenty in the news about kids arriving at school hungry, and parents saying they can't afford to feed them. The reality, of course, is that the families are making poor spending decisions. The exception being families who have fallen foul of the idiots at Atos or the target-hitters at Job Centre+, introducing sanctions on the flimsiest of excuses.[/p][/quote]Nice to have a sensible contribution and one that I partly agree with. Families can indeed tap into all kinds of support but I do not believe that this is the only issue. The issue is that the so called adults of the children that appear at school hungry, dirty or in ill fitting clothes are the problem. In these cases it's not a case of not being able to afford to feed their children, it's more a case of the games console, sky tv and cigarettes come first. I would like to see some kind of school children's meal token form part of the benefits system, so that these families have no alternative than to feed their children at least one proper meal a day. woodsedge
  • Score: 2

7:52pm Thu 27 Mar 14

Sigurd Hoberth says...

woodsedge wrote:
JamesYoung wrote:
cosmick wrote:
The lib dens thought this would be a vote winner, but when it turns out there is not enought money it will come back and bite them. The only way children should be fed at school is by each school having a kitchen and staff. I agree with the statement before familys should feed there own kids. Although this may need a review of funding to some familys.
To some families, maybe. However, most families with kids receive plenty of state benefits (you can go to turn2us.org - a charity site - and see what you would qualify for). There has been plenty in the news about kids arriving at school hungry, and parents saying they can't afford to feed them. The reality, of course, is that the families are making poor spending decisions.
The exception being families who have fallen foul of the idiots at Atos or the target-hitters at Job Centre+, introducing sanctions on the flimsiest of excuses.
Nice to have a sensible contribution and one that I partly agree with. Families can indeed tap into all kinds of support but I do not believe that this is the only issue. The issue is that the so called adults of the children that appear at school hungry, dirty or in ill fitting clothes are the problem. In these cases it's not a case of not being able to afford to feed their children, it's more a case of the games console, sky tv and cigarettes come first. I would like to see some kind of school children's meal token form part of the benefits system, so that these families have no alternative than to feed their children at least one proper meal a day.
Yes because your contribution previously in the thread was really sensible wasn't it.
[quote][p][bold]woodsedge[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]JamesYoung[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]cosmick[/bold] wrote: The lib dens thought this would be a vote winner, but when it turns out there is not enought money it will come back and bite them. The only way children should be fed at school is by each school having a kitchen and staff. I agree with the statement before familys should feed there own kids. Although this may need a review of funding to some familys.[/p][/quote]To some families, maybe. However, most families with kids receive plenty of state benefits (you can go to turn2us.org - a charity site - and see what you would qualify for). There has been plenty in the news about kids arriving at school hungry, and parents saying they can't afford to feed them. The reality, of course, is that the families are making poor spending decisions. The exception being families who have fallen foul of the idiots at Atos or the target-hitters at Job Centre+, introducing sanctions on the flimsiest of excuses.[/p][/quote]Nice to have a sensible contribution and one that I partly agree with. Families can indeed tap into all kinds of support but I do not believe that this is the only issue. The issue is that the so called adults of the children that appear at school hungry, dirty or in ill fitting clothes are the problem. In these cases it's not a case of not being able to afford to feed their children, it's more a case of the games console, sky tv and cigarettes come first. I would like to see some kind of school children's meal token form part of the benefits system, so that these families have no alternative than to feed their children at least one proper meal a day.[/p][/quote]Yes because your contribution previously in the thread was really sensible wasn't it. Sigurd Hoberth
  • Score: 1

10:22pm Thu 27 Mar 14

missjt44 says...

I currently work as a lunchtime supervisor and alongside my co- workers our workload has increased dramatically since the initial reintroduction of the hot school meal yet our wages do not reflect this. I also see a vast amount of the food being thrown away as there is only so much 'friendly encouragement' you can give a child to eat what's on their plate without feeling the wrath of a parent and if they do not eat their main meal they are still allowed the pudding/ cake that is on offer.As our workload has increased so has the pressure to get the job done therefore the time we can spend communicating with the children is limited.i have had experiences of some children having the hot school meal because straight after school they had a club to go to and guess what she hated the meal most of it went in the bin therefore defeating the object,and yes we do send letters home to parents of the children who will not touch their food and next time it's on the menu they are down for it again!
I currently work as a lunchtime supervisor and alongside my co- workers our workload has increased dramatically since the initial reintroduction of the hot school meal yet our wages do not reflect this. I also see a vast amount of the food being thrown away as there is only so much 'friendly encouragement' you can give a child to eat what's on their plate without feeling the wrath of a parent and if they do not eat their main meal they are still allowed the pudding/ cake that is on offer.As our workload has increased so has the pressure to get the job done therefore the time we can spend communicating with the children is limited.i have had experiences of some children having the hot school meal because straight after school they had a club to go to and guess what she hated the meal most of it went in the bin therefore defeating the object,and yes we do send letters home to parents of the children who will not touch their food and next time it's on the menu they are down for it again! missjt44
  • Score: 0

7:39am Fri 28 Mar 14

JamesYoung says...

missjt44 wrote:
I currently work as a lunchtime supervisor and alongside my co- workers our workload has increased dramatically since the initial reintroduction of the hot school meal yet our wages do not reflect this. I also see a vast amount of the food being thrown away as there is only so much 'friendly encouragement' you can give a child to eat what's on their plate without feeling the wrath of a parent and if they do not eat their main meal they are still allowed the pudding/ cake that is on offer.As our workload has increased so has the pressure to get the job done therefore the time we can spend communicating with the children is limited.i have had experiences of some children having the hot school meal because straight after school they had a club to go to and guess what she hated the meal most of it went in the bin therefore defeating the object,and yes we do send letters home to parents of the children who will not touch their food and next time it's on the menu they are down for it again!
I am a big advocate of the "if they are hungry they'll eat" argument - my own parents applied it without mercy. The problem is that the kids probably get fed chips and chicken nuggets when they get home, so they will never acquire the taste for nutritious food.
As to your workload, in the old days, hot school dinners were the norm, so i guess this is just a return to those days.
[quote][p][bold]missjt44[/bold] wrote: I currently work as a lunchtime supervisor and alongside my co- workers our workload has increased dramatically since the initial reintroduction of the hot school meal yet our wages do not reflect this. I also see a vast amount of the food being thrown away as there is only so much 'friendly encouragement' you can give a child to eat what's on their plate without feeling the wrath of a parent and if they do not eat their main meal they are still allowed the pudding/ cake that is on offer.As our workload has increased so has the pressure to get the job done therefore the time we can spend communicating with the children is limited.i have had experiences of some children having the hot school meal because straight after school they had a club to go to and guess what she hated the meal most of it went in the bin therefore defeating the object,and yes we do send letters home to parents of the children who will not touch their food and next time it's on the menu they are down for it again![/p][/quote]I am a big advocate of the "if they are hungry they'll eat" argument - my own parents applied it without mercy. The problem is that the kids probably get fed chips and chicken nuggets when they get home, so they will never acquire the taste for nutritious food. As to your workload, in the old days, hot school dinners were the norm, so i guess this is just a return to those days. JamesYoung
  • Score: 2

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