School meals - cheshire east catering services

Head teachers impacted by Cheshire East Council’s decision to scrap its school meals service should consider a not-for-profit model such as one which operates in Liverpool, a Crewe councillor said.

The council’s loss-making catering service is due to close next April, leaving 87 schools looking for alternative providers.

Cllr Laura Smith (Ind Socialist) raised fears about food standards dropping when Cheshire East’s children and families committee first discussed axing the service in February.

She is now urging head teachers to look at a not-for-profit social enterprise company, such as Food For Thought, which provides meals to many schools in Liverpool.

Cllr Smith, who no longer sits on the children and families committee after she resigned from the Labour group, said: “I pushed for the decision at children and families committee (in February) to be deferred until more research had been done into alternative providers to stop headteachers falling into the trap of signing up to long contracts with private profiteering companies interested only in making money rather than feeding children properly.

“I am dismayed that the council appears to be ploughing on with washing its hands of the problem and encourage parents to raise their concerns about school meals with their child’s school.

“It is not inevitable that prices go up and standards fall, but if we stand by and do nothing then I fear that that is what will happen.

“I would urge head teachers to look at models like Food For Thought, and think if it is good enough for children in Liverpool then why can’t we do the same here.”

Cllr Smith said Food For Thought company directors are made up of the headteachers, staff and appointed members of the community who ensure all decisions are made for the benefit of the schools and communities they serve.

Food For Thought chief executive Tom Lambeth said: “I felt it crucial to urge head teachers in Cheshire East about their options moving forward, and how there is a model, like ours, that puts children and nutrition at the centre rather than shareholders and profit margins.

“Food For Thought isn’t coming at this looking for the business but will definitely support and advise if head teachers feel motivated to take back control of their school meals in the way so many in Merseyside have done.

“There is no reason why head teachers in Cheshire East couldn’t replicate what head teachers in Merseyside have done.”

Cheshire East’s children and families committee voted last month to close its catering service, which employs approximately 270 people.

The council has had to subsidise the service over recent years – this year to the tune of approximately £515,000 – which it can no longer afford to do.

Council officers have held discussions with schools which are affected by the decision.

(story by local democracy reporter Belinda Ryan)

One Comment

  1. Why make it complicated?

    Allow each school to employ full time members of staff to the payroll who can construct from scratch the menus, buy healthy ingredients in and offer healthy food to children. Its worked for decades until the failed model -outsourced to for-profit companies that consistently failed to deliver. Childhood hunger should not be lining private pockets.

    It worked for decades; it can work again

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