Northamptonshire County Council’s school meals service Nourish could take the first steps towards becoming self-sustaining as part of the authority’s draft budget proposals for 2015/16.
Nourish, which provides meals in 176 of the county’s 244 primary schools, currently receives a subsidy of £2million from the council. It is being proposed to reduce this subsidy by £1million for the coming financial year, a further £500,000 in 2016/17 and £500,000 in 2017/18, at which point the service will be self-financing.
In order to maintain the quality and nutritional value of the meals Nourish delivers, there is proposed to be an increase of 25p per meal from April – the first price increase in four years.
Since Universal Infant Free School Meals were introduced in September, which entitles every child in reception, Year 1 and Year 2 to a free lunch, the number of meals provided by Nourish in county schools has risen from between 800 and 1,200 to over 1,600.
Cllr Robin Brown, county council cabinet member for public health and wellbeing, said: “The revenue generated from school meals does not cover the cost to the council of delivering this service, which is why we have been subsidising the service.
“However, significant efficiencies are needed to help meet the financial challenge the county council faces and that is why we are proposing to reduce the subsidy over the next three years until the service can be self-sustaining.
“Unlike other local authorities, we do not charge schools to provide our meals service. Therefore, we are introducing a small increase in the price of school meals – the first increase since 2010 – to ensure that children continue to receive the best quality meals at an affordable price for families.”