THE cost of a school meal in Hampshire will go up at the beginning of the new academic year.
From September parents will have to pay £2.40 for a two-course hot meal – an increase of 10p, writes Maria Zaccaro of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
The decision was made by Hampshire County Council last week, when they also agreed that the schools will continue to be charged £2.30 per meal for those which are provided under the Government’s Universal Infant Free School Meals grant.
A spokesperson for HCC said: “The revised charge reflects inflationary pressures associated with food costs and staff pay which rose by 6.4% in April 2019, when the hourly pay rate for catering assistants was increased nationally.
“Over 90% of the cost of a school meal covers food and staff costs, with related overheads accounting for the remainder.
“Supplying school meals at cost, keeps the price as low as possible for Hampshire families and ensures they receive value for money.”
A report to the cabinet member for children’s services, Cllr Keith Mans, blamed the increase on unpredictable weather, Brexit and alternatives to single-use plastic.
HCC said its in-house catering service continues to deliver efficiencies, where possible, “to offset some of these large inflationary pressures”.
But it added that small changes in costs can have a significant impact on the total cost of the school meals service in Hampshire as an increase of one penny on the cost of food per meal would cost an additional £114,000 a year.
The authority said the rise represents a 4.3% increase and it is compared to the hourly pay rate for catering assistants rising by 6.4%.
Low tax campaign group the TaxPayers Alliance (TPA) said the rise was the result of government policy not matching up with the increasing cost of labour through rises in the minimum wage.
Duncan Simpson, TPA research director, said: “The National Living Wage and introduction of infant free school meals has meant vast increases in costs for schools across the country.
“Arbitrarily raising the cost of labour, and not tallying that up with government policy, leads to outcomes such as these in Hampshire.”