PARENTS will have to fork out more to feed their children when cash-strapped council chiefs raise the cost of school meals.
The daily cost of lunches at all Sunderland schools will go up by 10p in September – about £20 over the full year – rising to £1.80 in primary schools and £1.90 in secondary schools.
The decision was made by the Sunderland Schools Forum in response of reductions in dedicated grant funding and other special grants for schools.
Pat Smith, the senior councillor responsible for education and children’s services, said there was less money available to support school meals provision and rising food prices.
She said: “Although the decision to increase the price of a school meal was taken very reluctantly, it was deemed necessary because of the reduction in specific grants from Government available to support schools in 2011/2012.
“However the price of a school meal in Sunderland still compares favourably with other authorities across the North East and the country as a whole.
“It also continues to represent excellent value for money, especially given the quality of food on offer, and the fact that all meals meet national nutritional standards and guarantee children get a healthy and tasty meal at lunchtime, which has a positive impact on their performance at school.”
Sunderland City council stressed that despite the price increase, the cost of school meals in Sunderland remains among the lowest in the North East – and across the country.
Coun Smith said the extra 10p will help maintain the quality of food on offer across the city’s schools.
She said the meals not only meet national nutritional standards but are also gaining in popularity among pupils with school meal uptake in primary and secondary schools continuing to rise.
Figures from 2010 reveal there were 3,234 secondary school pupils and 4,852 primary school pupils eligible for free school meals in Sunderland.