Date 15 November 2006
UNISON calls for councils to be allowed to offer Free School Meals
UNISON, the union that represents school meals staff, today called
for an amendment to be introduced into the Schools (Health Promotion
and Nutrition) Bill to allow enable local councils to introduce
free school meals in their area.
In addition the union in its evidence to the Communities Committee
today, called for nutritional standards to be set across the public
sector in a ‘Food for Good' programme of action, and for both PFI/PPP
schemes and Best Value Reviews of services should take the quality
and nutritional value of school meals into account, without price
being the key factor.
UNISON Scottish Organiser, Dave Watson said: "The experience of
Hull City Council's Eat Well, Do Well initiative and their piloting
of free school meals in primary schools has increased the take-up
of healthy meals from a low of 36% to 64% in three years, and this
shows that similar pilots in Scotland could have a major impact
on the health of our children., and in the long term be a financial
UNISON also restates its commitment to the longer term aim of universal
provision of Free School Meals and has supported previous bills
to introduce this, but the union sees this amendment as an opportunity
to take a step down this road and introduce initiatives that can
test out the effectiveness of this innovation.
The union - that produced a Food for Good charter back in 2003,
calling for food to be sourced locally and with organic options
- points out that East Ayrshire Council has been providing organic
and local food successfully for some years within EU procurement
Dave Watson said "We want to initiate a culture of healthy eating.
There are a number of Scottish Executive initiatives like ‘Hungry
for Success' which our members have successfully implemented. Now
we need to extend these across all departments to establish a culture
of healthy eating. Schools are key to this.”
The union also points out that the operation of PFI/PPP contracting
has meant councils concentrating on cost rather than quality, in
some cases outsourcing its school meals service and contractors
threatening to cut corners in building school kitchens.
Dave said "The inflexibility of PFI/PPP contracts cannot be allowed
to interfere with education and health strategies. The School Meal
Service should not be considered simply as a commercial trading
activity. Price should not outweigh, quality and nutritional standards.
Notes for editors: UNISON's written evidence to the committee
is on our website,www.unison-scotland.org.uk/response/schoolnutrition.html
- as is 2003's ‘Food for Good' Charter. http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/healthcare/chefs/charter.html
For Further Information Please Contact: Dave Watson (Scottish
Organiser) 0845 355 0845 (w) 07958 122 409 (m) Chris Bartter (Communications
Officer) 0845 355 0845(w) 0771 558 3729(m)