Junk food warning over school meals deal

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PRIVATISING school meals risks an increase in junk food, councillors have been warned.

City council chiefs want to hand over control of all school catering to private firm Mitie Group, as part of outsourcing plans for £61 million a year’s worth of public services which also include janitors, cleaners and porters.

Under the contract, the firm will face penalties unless school meal take-up rises by nearly a third by the end of 2013.

Alison Johnstone, Green education spokeswoman on the council, said: “We would have to be absolutely clear about how any service provider intended reaching these targets. We do not want a race to the bottom in terms of quality and produce.”

Peter Hunter, regional organiser of trade union Unison, which opposes the outsourcing plan, said: “There is a definite risk that they go for junkier food to get kids in.”

A council spokeswoman said the contract specification sent to bidders said school meals would have to be healthy and up to a good standard, but declined to comment on how the increase would be achieved under the proposal because the details were “commercially sensitive”.