School meal price increase
The current economic climate continues to be a challenge for all and HC3S is also facing significant increases in food and pay costs, with further escalation in food prices anticipated. Unfortunately, the Government's 7p increase for Universal Infant Free School Meals in the funding settlement is not sufficient to cover these rising prices.
HC3S is committed to pricing meals solely to cover costs, without making a profit. Despite efforts and negotiations with suppliers, food prices have exceeded budgeted levels, and reducing the nutritional content or portion sizes of meals is not considered an appropriate option.
Consequently, HC3S must increase the school meal price by 20p, from £2.80 to £3, for all meal types from 5 June 2023.
These are challenging times for everyone, and this decision was not made lightly.
The current funding for Universal Infant Free School Meals is £2.41 per meal, which will only provide around £0.48 for food after the proposed national pay award is applied. This is less than the cost of food provided a decade ago and is insufficient to meet the required standards for feeding children under the School Food Plan and Food in School legislation.
However, the service remains dedicated to providing high-quality meals that support the learning of Hampshire's young people, including those from low-income households who rely on our hot meals. Schools are encouraged to continue to signpost families to the free school meal eligibility checker online: www.hants.gov.uk/educationandlearning/freeschoolmeals
Efforts to promote affordable school meals and support families in need
Hampshire County Council is taking an active role in advocating for fair and affordable school meal prices and is working closely with local MPs to raise the profile of this issue. This follows previous communication with the Secretary of State for Education, outlining the need for adequate funding to support the provision of healthy school meals, and schools are encouraged to do the same.
On 11 May, the Local Authority will put forward its latest set of proposed initiatives to be funded from the new Household Support Fund (April 2023 to March 2024) – the scheme which supports families and individuals struggling with the cost of food and fuel. This will include discretionary funding available for schools, colleges and early years settings to provide direct food or fuel support for families in need. These will be presented for approval by the Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services and include a number of different schemes to help families with the rising cost of living. For more information visit the County Council website (www.hants.gov.uk).