Shadow schools minister pays tribute to catering teams at Spring Seminar
He told the event via Zoom: “The catering sector played such an important role during the pandemic, so I just want to say a big thank you to all your 900 members for helping keep our children well fed during such difficult challenges.”
He said, though, that the sector’s challenges were continuing.
“The provision of free school meals has become increasingly important with 20% of pupils now eligible; in the North East that’s closer to 27%.
“There are issues, too, of food poverty, food price rises are putting extra pressure on very tight budgets and this could ultimately impact provision.
“Inflation is pushing up costs and staff shortages, tax hikes, universal credit cuts and fuel price rises are creating a perfect storm.”
He said Labour believes the national school breakfast programme has not been rolled out anywhere close to the original target, despite the fact it helps early years, primary and secondary school children.
“Social security changes have pushed more children into free school meals eligibility, so we would replace Universal Credit with a system that is fairer to families, to put money in people’s pockets to spend on what they need to most."
If his party came to power, he said: “Labour will cut business rates and cancel the planned national insurance rises to help hard-pressed families cope.”
The Spring Seminar event, which was held alongside the Public Sector Catering Expo at the NEC, saw LACA Chair Jacquie Blake outline the latest data from members as part of the organisation’s ‘Snapshot Survey’ programme.
She said: “Between November and February shortages of key supplies have started to improve, with 90% experiencing difficulties now don’t to 67%.
And recruitment has also seen a slight improvement, though 70% said the most challenging roles they had to fill were chef supervisers.”
She also reported that this year’s National School Meals Week would run from November 7-11, with the theme of ‘Making A World of Difference’.
And she looked forward to the Main Event, running from July 6-8 at the Hilton Metropole in Birmingham – back to its usual summer place in the calendar.
Among other features of the seminar, there was an introduction to the Love British Food Schools Working Group by Steve Kemp and Linda Cregan of ISS Education, who talked about the drive to get every school taking part in the annual British Food Fortnight, which this year runs from September 17th to October 2nd.
And Bethan Cowell of the National Farmers Union explained to members how the organisation’s STEMterprise scheme for schools helps them deliver curriculum-relevant content that helps educate children about food and farming.