School meal take-up has increased for a third year in a row, according to new figures published in July.
The Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA) and the School Food Trust (SFT) found the biggest increase in numbers in primary schools, with 44.1% of children opting for the school canteen over packed lunches – up from 41.4% last year.
Secondary schools also saw numbers rise. The 2010-11 year saw take-up of 37.6% against a figure of 35.8% for the previous year.
Two-thirds of councils that took part in the survey (65%) indicated that their catering services would continue to receive School Lunch Grant funding, with fewer than one in five indicating otherwise.
The average meal price across all schools was £1.93, a rise of 5p – less than 3% and below the current rate of food inflation – on the previous year.
Sandra Russell, LACA chair, said: “We are pleased to see an increase in both primary and secondary school meal numbers, particularly at a time when parents are having to watch every penny.
Key findings of the survey
● Around 173,000 more children had healthy school meals last year, compared with around 100,000 extra children in 2009-10
● More than three million children now eat a school meal every day
● The equivalent of almost 590 million healthy school lunches were served up last year
● The number of children taking both paid-for and free school meals in the 2010-11 year increased
● Figures in primary schools have now notched up a rise of almost 5 percentage points over just three years, compensating for the fall in take up seen after Jamie Oliver’s original campaign.