There’s no more money for hot kosher lunches, government tells Jewish schools

The Schools Minister met heads after the JC revealed that the meals could no longer be provided amid rising costs


Jewish school heads are being told to work with the “help that is already available” from the government, despite hundreds of students going without hot kosher meals at lunchtime due to rising costs. 

Schools Minister Nick Gibb met communal representatives last Thursday after the JC revealed that in the wake of lead kosher caterer ceasing trading at short notice last month, students at almost 20 primary and secondary Jewish schools were told to bring in a packed lunch or were offered a non-meat cold sandwich.

The government provides £2.41 per meal for KS1 students (reception to Year 2); however, a nutritionally-balanced hot kosher meal is estimated to cost £4-£5.50. 

Though talks are understood to be ongoing - with some communal leaders calling for more funding for kosher meals - a spokesperson for the Department of Education told the JC: “We are aware of the issues that some Jewish schools are facing and we’re talking with them about the help that’s already available.

“Schools are responsible for providing nutritious school meals and can agree individual contracts to meet this duty, using their core funding which has increased by £2 billion in each of the next two years, taking school funding to its highest level in history next year.”

Rabbi David Meyer, the chief executive of PaJes, which works with Jewish schools, said: “We are in discussions with the Department for Education and have held high level meetings discussing our concerns. They have shown a genuine concern and are now collating evidence in order to help inform possible solutions.”

Hundreds of children at almost 20 Jewish schools in London had their hot meals scrapped after the main kosher caterer, London Kosher Catering (LKC), ceased trading at short notice in May. It is understood that the company was unable to continue providing hot nutritious meals within budget in the face of rising expenses. As well as kashrut costs, the price of food has risen 20-60 per cent in the UK.

Since the company ceased trading, children at some schools have gone from eating hot kosher meaty meals at lunchtime like spaghetti bolognese and turkey shawarma with salads and a dessert, to being offered a non-meat sandwich and fruit - with the majority being discarded according to one school worker. This includes students entitled to Free School Meals. 

In March, LKC took over the contract to provide schools with kosher meals from Signature Dining, which still caters to care homes across the UK.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has said that from September, all primary schools in the capital will get free school meals. Questioned on how this would work for Jewish schools, a spokesperson said: “The team are aware of the current issues regarding kosher lunches in some schools and will be working closely with councils on this.”

They added: "Due to the impact of the spiralling cost of living on families, the Mayor has stepped forward with an emergency £130m funding plan to provide primary school pupils in the capital with free school meals for the next academic year. The Mayor's team have been working closely with schools, councils and partners to inform the implementation of this unprecedented policy and it has been proposed that £2.65 will be provided per meal – almost 10 per cent more than the Government currently funds for free infant school meals.”

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