Why it’s all about the price tag

Schools have so many projects and priorities on their plates that it’s always difficult to ask them to add to the load.

But in these tough times, one issue often seems to pique their interest: helping families to afford school meals.

I put out some feelers recently for 15 schools to take part in a pilot scheme we’re launching. It’ll test ways to use new powers allowing schools to price meals differently, either for promotional campaigns or to discount prices for families living just above the poverty line who don’t qualify for free school meals.

I had a great response. We’re asking every school to try using the powers in two different ways before June – the idea’s to see what works best. Borough-wide campaigns charging £1 a meal for every child can be really successful, but what’s the most effective way to use these powers as an individual school? Teachers I speak to really want to help the families whose children have to take turns to eat in the dining room, because they can’t afford to pay for more than one meal every day. The larger families for whom school meals often simply aren’t an option at all. The families who say they’re sticking with packed lunches for cost reasons, but one look in the lunchbox says they’d be better using their limited budget for a healthier school meal.

The kicker is that it’s always going to take some investment. A head teacher is always going to have to make the choice to subsidise price reductions in the dining room, so we want to show the bang you can get for not a lot of bucks in the longer term. Looking forward to working with them all.

Steve is one of our children’s food advisors who helps schools tackle all sorts of school meals issues and concerns. Click to email Steve.

Read interviews with other school meals experts on using these new pricing powers at http://www.schoolfoodtrust.org.uk/schools/projects/variable-pricing-and-discounts-on-school-meals, or download a quick guide to using variable pricing and discounts in school meals.

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