According to the head of one of the largest food wholesalers in the UK, sharp food inflation may force schools to choose between offering smaller portions at lunch and using cheaper ingredients.
Andrew Sally, CEO of Bidfood, a food distribution company with an annual turnover of nearly £ 2 billion, said schools would face difficult decisions if the government did not increase funding for free school meals.
Sally said that the deficit caused by the war in Ukraine has led to a doubling of the price of sunflower oil compared to a year ago, which has affected other vegetable oils.
Bakery products are 20-30% more expensive, and wheat prices will be affected by pasta, eggs and chicken, as wheat is used as feed for chickens, he said.
Sally said the amount of money the government allocates for free school meals has risen by only 1.7% over the past 10 years, well behind food inflation even before the sharp jumps seen in recent months.
“This will lead to some difficult decisions for school catering establishments: either they will serve smaller portions or use cheaper ingredients, which will not be good for children,” Sally told BBC Radio 4 Today. He also called on the government to extend free school meals in primary schools for children from low-income families to secondary schools.
“Free school meals are vital to education, achievement and long-term contribution to society. They need to ensure that funding for free school meals is in line with inflation, which has not been the case for the past 10 years, and in line with the recommendations of the national food strategy to extend this to secondary school as well as primary school only. ”
Sally’s comments came a day after Bank of England chief Andrew Bailey accused the war of Ukraine for the highest inflation in the UK in the last three decades, and warned that “apocalyptic” food prices were caused by Russia’s invasion can have a catastrophic impact on the world’s poorest people.
“With respect to the governor, he was a little late for the party; we are worried about the danger of food inflation over the last nine months, ”Sally said, acknowledging that the central bank’s powers were limited.
“I’m not sure what the Bank could have done on its own, the causes of food inflation are global. They are not driven by excessive demand in the UK. These are mainly prices for fuel energy, delivery, packaging, fertilizer prices, all resources in the food chain have grown over the past nine months. Raising interest rates is not so helpful. This is not an issue driven by demand from the UK. ”