School meals fail porridge test

School meals are often nothing more than "muck off a truck" that cost caterers half as much to make as prison food, a new report claims.

Despite Government rules that children should

get a nutritious lunch, many private and local authority caterers served up "dematerialised fish, mechanically recovered meat and poor quality produce containing pesticide residues".

The Soil Association, which produced the report, called on the Government to follow the Scottish example and give schools in England and Wales £200 million to spend on organic produce and food from local farmers.

Among its other recommendations was a call for primary schools to grow their own whenever possible.

The report, published to mark Organic Week, said local authority caterers spent about 35p a day on each primary school meal.

Private companies and caterers in high wage areas might spend as little as 31p, it claimed.

The Prison Service, by contrast, spent £1.74 a day on each inmate's meals.

The Association said that if both a school and prison lunch were supposed to meet 35% of daily nutritional needs then the state was spending 60p on a prisoner's lunch, compared with 30 to 35p on the one eaten by a primary pupil.

That helped to explain why parents were sending their children to school with packed lunches, said the report.

Last month, a Food Standards Agency survey showed more than half of primary pupils now brought their lunch to school.

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