Government will 'take up' case of Jewish pupils with no hot kosher lunches

Health minister Lord Markham expressed concern following JC story


The government will look into hundreds of Jewish pupils who have lost access to hot lunches after a kosher caterer shut down, the health minister has said after the JC revealed the scale of the problem.

More than a dozen Orthodox schools have withdrawn their meal service, affecting some of the most impoverished children in the community.

On Thursday, independent peer Lord Mann told peers in Westminster: "There's currently some Jewish children having to survive, due to the funding formula, on a bagel every dinner time. 

"Is that acceptable? And if not, which minister is going to sort it out?"

Health minister Lord Markham responded: "I think and hope that every child would have something more nutritious and more healthy than just a bagel. 

"It is something that I will happily discuss. I'm not familiar with that particular case but it is something that I will happily take up."

London Kosher Caterers took over the contract to cook lunch for 18 Jewish schools earlier this year after the previous supplier, Signature Dining, passed the contract to LKC. 

They later found the cost of providing kosher meals was far higher than the funding the schools received, however.

Speaking to the JC earlier this week, one senior school staff member said the cost of hot kosher meals would be out of reach for many families.

“Our school has quite a number of needy families. The hot meal we used to provide was, for some, the only substantial, good meal the children had all day,” they said.

One working mother of three, whose children attend one of the schools said: “I used to rely on someone providing hot meaty lunches for my children. Now the situation is pretty dire.

“They were offered a cold, non-meat, lunch and we have to make up the cost, which is more than £1. "We are lucky we could do that, but some can’t.”

Headteacher Miriam Kaye of Mathilda Marks school in Mill Hill, said: “We are really disappointed for our pupils that they are now unable to have a hot meal at lunchtime, due to the fact that kosher meal prices now make this unaffordable for providers, parents, and schools. 

“Hot meals not only help to provide a balanced diet for our pupils, it helps them concentrate better through the afternoon and allows our pupils to try a range of different foods in a safe environment. 

“We are hoping that the government and the Jewish community find a way to deliver affordable meals for all.”

This article was amended to accurately reflect the passing of the schools catering contract from Signature Dining to LKC

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