The Universal Infant Free School Meals scheme (UIFSM), under which food and drink distributors deliver meals to 1.6 million children, has not been cut in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. The Federation of Wholesale Distributors, which represents companies which have supplied 6.6m extra items into schools over the last year, estimates that up to 250 jobs would have been lost by its members if UIFSM had been scrapped. Investment in extra delivery vehicles would be wiped out, and schools would lose the economies of scale of larger shipments.
Although the Government had pledged to retain UIFSM in its election manifesto, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan had refused to count it out of the cuts announced this week.
FWD made representations on behalf of its members to the Department of Education and raised the issue with Food Minister George Eustice. Chief Executive James Bielby said: “We explained to the Government that it would not only be children and schools that would suffer if UIFSM was ended. Distributors have invested heavily in the scheme and dropping it so soon after its introduction would have had a severe effect on those who are working to make school food provision it as efficient and cost-effective as possible.”