John Betts Parents in School Dinners Revolt

Caterer sacked for serving up 'reconstituted slops'

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Parents at John Betts school have seized control of the canteen after complaints about the quality of food. Taking their cue from TV chef Jamie Oliver they plan to introduce a more healthy menu at the school.

Concern had risen after the proportion of children taking school meals had fallen to one in three with most children taking packed lunches. The meals were prepared off site making food which was described as 'reconstituted slop".

The parents' group had been quoted as claiming that the food cost 35p per meal but the Council deny this saying the cost of making each meal was £2.00. The price charged was £1.60 so they say the meals were actually subsidised.

The school has an excellent academic record and places are much sought after. Former pupils include the children of Nigella Lawson and currently the children of Tony Blair's chief of staff Jonathan Powell are educated there.

In response to the problem parents, staff and governors got together to form a 'Kitchen Cabinet' and sack the local authority caterer. They secured £120,000 from the Government which will go towards building a new kitchen and new menus which will include more fresh produce and less processed food. The cost of meals to pupils will remain the same.

Cllr Victoria Brocklebank-Fowler, Hammersmith & Fulham Council's cabinet member for education said, "We support all efforts to improve the quality of food in schools and have given John Betts Primary School our wholehearted support in opening their own school kitchen. At the moment meals are freshly cooked at a primary school just around the corner from John Betts but having their own kitchen will clearly improve the quality of meals. School meals are popular and nutritious in Hammersmith & Fulham and are eaten by 70 per cent of local pupils. We use fresh, healthy ingredients and have highly trained and dedicated catering staff who take a pride in offering varied and tasty menus to local schoolchildren. John Betts School has invited the council to bid for the tender for their new service."

October 26, 2006