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River Cottage school hot lunches too expensive

Several Devon schools, including one that featured on a celebrity chef's television programme about healthy eating, is scrapping hot lunches for some pupils because it says they have become too expensive.

School Dinners

Several Devon schools, including one that featured on a celebrity chef's television programme about healthy eating, is scrapping hot lunches for some pupils because it says they have become too expensive.

Mrs Ethelston's primary along with six other schools have told a newly created catering company, set up by Devon county council and a private partner, that they plan to make other arrangements as the meals have become too expensive.

Mrs Ethelston's primary, which Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall visited in 2010 for his River Cottage Every Day series, and its sister school, St Andrew's primary, said they would prefer to spend the £50,000 cost of providing hot meals over the next three years on other things.

Devon Norse, a 10-year joint venture between the Conservative-controlled county council and Norse Commercial Services, took over the provision of school meals at more than 300 schools in September. The company also provides catering at some council functions. The county council said it had consulted schools before outsourcing the school meals.

Schools charge parents who can afford to pay for hot meals and receive money to make sure children from more deprived backgrounds receive a lunch. The £50,000 bill at Mrs Ethelston's and St Andrew's is the gap between these sums and the final cost of providing the meals. Governors can now choose to spend the money in different ways.

The schools' executive head, Andrea Rice, said it had not been an easy decision. "We have to decide the best way to spend the budget that we have. Is it right to subsidise those children who want to have school dinners or should it be spent on the education of all the children in the school?" she said.

It is understood that children who are eligible for free meals will continue to receive a hot lunch at Mrs Ethelston's and St Andrew's

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