Wirral dad worries children are going hungry in school
A BIRKENHEAD dad is worried his children are going hungry at school.
Tom Lowe from Tranmere says that the free school meal allowance doesn’t cover the cost of a full dinner in the canteen.
The dad-of-six has two children who attend University Academy Birkenhead.
He was shocked to discover that the £2.10 dinner allowance didn’t buy a full school meal with drink.
He says the subsidy doesn’t cover food on the menu because its pricing structure is too high. A bottle of water costs a pound and a cookie is 60p.
On the school’s website it states the meal of the day costs £2.10 which includes a drink.
But Tom says the deal offered isn’t adequate enough as it includes a small cookie and just a ‘thimble’ of orange juice.
He said: “I found out when I saw my daughter making a sandwich and questioned her about it.
“The free school dinner money allocated does pay for the meal of the day, but the small portions are not enough for growing children.
“And how can a thimble of drink quench a child’s thirst?
“Children need a drink and shouldn’t go without water all day. Especially on a hot summer’s day they dehydrate.
“They can’t even take a plastic bottle to fill up because the water fountains don’t work.
“Children should be able to get a full school meal with the money. For some children it is the only hot meal they will get. I thought my children were getting well fed in school.
“The pricing structure needs to be addressed. In the supermarket you can get five bottles of water for a pound.”
Tom also found that if a child doesn’t spend their allocated quota for the day then the school pockets the cash.
He added: “Children are given £2.10 a day for a free school meal which is £600 per child for the year.
“If they don’t spend their £2.10 it doesn’t get rolled over to the next day but the school keeps the money. If they spend £1.50 on a meal then the other 60p goes to the school.
“I feel that is deeply unfair and taking away from the children. Why can’t the money be rolled over so for one of the days they can get a decent meal?”
School principal Geraint Parry said as a PFI school their catering facilities are provided by an independent company.
He added: “The menu is available each day and forms part of an optional meal deal which equates to £2.10. Within the meal deal pupils are offered a hot meal (meat or vegetarian), a hot pudding, fresh homemade bread and a small drink. This pricing is benchmarked and is set in line with the ‘free school meal’ allowance.
“I acknowledge the query regarding students under-spending their meal allowances, in some cases this is related to individual choice and some students’ preference for snacks in place of a full lunch. This is something that we are looking into and will address by working with our students and the catering firm to promote healthy eating options that are affordable.
“With regards to the quality of food the school foods trust regulate the availability of fried foods and consequently chips are only offered once a week with a fish meal. The pizza range is available daily along with salads, sandwiches, jacket potatoes and pasta.
“While water bottles can be purchased there are also free water fountains around the school, so water is freely available to all.”