Schools are cutting healthy meals from their lunch menus due to inflation and energy price increases of up to 30 per cent, MPs have warned.
It comes amid reports that some schools have had to pull beef from their menus because they can no longer afford it.
During Education Questions in the House of Commons on Monday, the Government was confronted with examples of the cost pressures being faced by schools.
Holly Lynch, the Labour MP for Halifax, said: “I’ve spoken to local headteachers who report that due to inflation, staffing costs have increased 12 per cent, gas 20 per cent and electricity costs by 30 per cent.
“One headteacher said to me, ‘Please ask the Secretary of State [Nadhim Zahawi] what am I supposed to cut in order to meet inflation costs?’
“The mental-health first aider we’ve had to recruit because of the backlog in [children and adolescent mental health services]? The resources we’ve had to put into a community kitchen because so many children were going without meals, shall I turn off the heating in the winter or simply cut teaching staff?
She added: “What would the minister like me to say to that headteacher?”
Ruth Cadbury, the Labour MP for Brentford and Isleworth, said schools were having to change their menus because of the financial pressures.
“Schools are telling us that standstill funding, inflation and rising energy costs mean they’re having to limit the number of healthy options in schools,” she said.
“Now the Government agrees with us that good healthy school meals are essential for children to be able to thrive especially as for more and more children school dinner is their only hot meal. Yet the [children’s] minister [Will Quince] has said in relation to school meals it was up to schools to ‘manage their own individual budgets’.
“Is that the best the Government can serve up?”
The schools minister Robin Walker said that increases in school funding had been “frontloaded to rapidly get money to the schools”, with core funding increasing by £4bn this year.
He said that a new national funding formula from the Government is directing “funding towards deprivation”, with all pupils on free school meals attracting extra money.
Mr Walker said the Department for Education was also helping schools to get “best value from their resources through a range of resource management tools”, including “recommended deals for energy and support for schools in switching and entering new energy contracts”.
Laca, the school caterers’ association for England and Wales, has said that the cost of staples such as minced beef rose by 11 per cent overnight in recent days.
The BBC meanwhile reported that Laira Green Primary School in Plymouth is one of a number of schools which have switched from beef to gammon as a cheaper alternative.