Foodservice wholesalers are urging the Prime Minister to honour an election pledge to retain the Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM) scheme, which has created jobs in distribution companies and helped school kitchens to operate profitably. Introduced under the coalition Government, the scheme provides free meals to 1.6m children but is now believed to be under threat from within the Conservative Party, with Education Secretary Nicky Morgan refusing to rule out scrapping the programme despite a commitment to maintain it in the party’s pre-election manifesto.
The Federation of Wholesale Distributors represents companies which have supplied 6.6 million extra items into schools over the last year. It estimates that, as well as the educational and nutritional benefits for children, up to 250 jobs would be lost by its members if UIFSM is scrapped. Investment in extra delivery vehicles will be wiped out, and schools will lose the economies of scale of larger shipments.
FWD chief executive James Bielby said: “Members report an increase in demand for food from schools by up to 20% following the introduction of universal free school meals. They have invested in staff and equipment to meet the demands of the programme, and they are delivering a service which is helping children eat and learn well, which is raising the quality of school meal provision, and which is helping parents save up to £15 a week.
“We’re asking Mr Cameron not to break his promise on UIFSM, and to demonstrate his support for schools, families, and the food distribution industry.”
FWD has written to the Department for Education ahead of the upcoming Autumn Statement and Spending Review to ask for clarification on the Government’s policy on UIFSM and to urge it not to reduce or end the scheme.