Derbyshire school meals: Fewer children on school meals ‘not necessarily’ only because of price increase – says council
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The prices of school meals were increased by Derbyshire County Council ahead of the 2023/2024 academic year as a response to food inflation, leaving many parents disappointed.
In Derbyshire the impact was significant because prices went up by 41% to £3.25 per day per child. This is above the national average cost of £2.65 per meal per child.
Following the increase many parents have decided to put their children on packed lunches instead.
Commenting on the decreasing number of pupils taking school meals, Councillor Alex Dale told the Derbyshire Times: “The decision to increase meal prices was an incredibly difficult one which we made very reluctantly, given the pressures we know families across the county are facing with the cost of living. We’re acutely aware that it was a significant increase, and it wasn’t a decision that we took lightly but the sad reality is that, as a service, we are not immune to the same cost pressures faced by families in Derbyshire.
“We’re aware anecdotally that the number of children having a paid-for school meal has reduced but we’re awaiting official figures to get an accurate picture and assess how significant the impact has been. As there's also been a drop in the number of pupils enrolled in primary schools in Derbyshire and there are always fluctuations in take-up, fewer meals served could be attributed to several factors, not necessarily the rise in price.
“With food inflation having reached the heights of 19%, the costs of our ingredients are soaring and last year’s local government pay award alone left a £1.28m hole in our budget, with this year’s likely to be a similar increase on top. We have worked extremely hard to keep our prices down, freezing them in five out of the past eight years and we are constantly striving to make the service more efficient.”
The school meal price hike is set to be re-discussed at the full council meeting on November 29 after over 7,500 signed a petition against the rise.