THE cost of a school meal in Hampshire was set to go up.

Parents across the county could be asked to pay £2.40 instead of £2.30 for the hot two-course meal their children will have from September 2019.

Unpredictable weather, Brexit and alternatives to single use plastic have been blamed for the proposed increase which is set to be approved by the Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services Keith Mans at Hampshire County Council yesterday as the Chronicle went to press.

However, it is recommended that schools  will continue to be charged £2.30 per meal for those provided under the Government’s Universal Infant Free School Meals grant (UIFSM)

If the proposal is approved, it will mean parents in Hampshire will pay more than in Southampton, where a meal costs £2.10.

HCC said its in-house catering service (HC3S) continues to deliver efficiencies, where possible, “to offset some of these large inflationary pressures” but added that small changes in costs can have a significant impact on the total cost of the school meals service in Hampshire as an increase of one penny on the cost of food per meal would cost HC3S an additional £114,000 a year. 

The council said the price rise represents a 4.3 per cent increase and it is compared to the hourly pay rate for catering assistants rising by 6.4 per cent.

“With 90 per cent of the cost of producing a school meal being made up of catering staff and food, there are limited opportunities to reduce these costs further without jeopardising food quality and standards,” a report says. It also adds: “Further food inflationary pressures are also being forecast arising from both unpredictable and unseasonable weather patterns globally and the UK leaving the EU. HC3S is actively sourcing alternatives to single use plastic, which are often at higher cost and there may be additional cost pressure arising from the Government’s proposals for a plastics packaging tax which are currently out for consultation.”

Meanwhile, it is proposed that the price charged directly to schools for the meals which are funded by UIFSM will remain at the current price of £2.30.