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School meals at 70% of pre-lockdown figure

Recent figures on the uptake of school meals in England suggest that only 70% of pupils are taking them compared to numbers before schools closed in March at the start of the Covid-19 lockdown. The data, generated by Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA) members around the country, is largely in line with the experience in Scotland. 

Free school meals uptake is slightly higher at 72% and universal infant-free school meals figures are a shade above that at just over 75%. Where local authorities were able to break down this early data still further it showed that just over a half of the meals being served were cooked, although one area was able to report a 94% figure for hot food. 

LACA vice chair Jacquie Blake said: “The data shows that LACA members around the country are working exceptionally hard to adapt to the different requirements of each school to meet current Covid-19 guidelines, with the number of school meals served at 70% of pre-Covid levels. The data includes classroom service and a combination of hot and packed lunches. 

“While it is disappointing to see that school meal uptake in England dropped by 30% – as was the case in Scotland – we understand that schools, caterers and parents face challenges in adjusting to a new system. As we move into the colder months, it is important that schools, where they can, return to providing hot lunches for children.”