Scotland's most expensive primary school meals
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Aberdeenshire Council's Education Committee will this week take a critical look at meal provision in the north-east as figures show a decline in the uptake of hot meals by youngsters.
A extensive report to the committee which meets on Thursday highlights the growing decline of youngsters in the P4-P7 age groups taking up the daily hot food offer.
Officers explain that: "Price increase can be expected to result in a reduction in demand, albeit sales do increase again after the first few months of a price change.
"However, the recovery in sales has not been seen since the price increase in April, 2019 (increased in primary to £2.50), and meal sales have not yet recovered."
In primaries, Universal Free School Meals for P1 – P3 were introduced in 2015 but for many families with children now in Primary 4, this will be the first year that they have had to either pay for school meals or provide their child with lunch.
A sample of uptake from across the region showed that while, for example in Turriff Primary School 73 per cent of P3 children took up the offer under the free meal system, that dropped to only 33 per cent in P4 and P5 where meals had to be paid for.
These figures were replicated at other schools such as Meldrum Primary where the figures were 91 per cent in P3 falling to 39 per cent and 41 per cent respectively.
The report notes: "It can be expected that, as meal prices increase, more parents will fall into this category of being unable to afford school meals, impacting the number of overall sales."
The average meal price for primary pupils across Scotland for 2020 is £2.15, whereas at £2.50 Aberdeenshire is singularly the highest, followed by West Dunbartonshire at £2.45 and Orkney at £2.40.
The cheapest are in South Lanarkshire at £1.70.
Aberdeenshire's catering service is currently running at a considerable loss, most of which comes from a loss of revenue from school closures and the failure of the 1140 hours childcare system to be started which would have seen considerable financial improvements due to economy of scale and supported finance.