Schoolchildren to be served smaller portions!

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Protest against the cut to Universal credit – parent struggling to feed their children are facing longer working hours and children getting less food at school

SCHOOL caterers will have to serve children smaller portions or use cheaper ingredients, they were warned yesterday.

Andrew Selley, boss of Bidfood, one of the UK’s largest food wholesalers, said school caterers face ‘difficult decisions’ as ‘all of the inputs into the food supply chain’ have increased over the past nine months.

Selley was speaking the day after Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey appeared before MPs on the House of Commons Treasury Committee and told them that food shortages and prices are out of control, before apologising to them for sounding ‘apocalyptic’.

Selley said: ‘We are seeing things like sunflower oil is double the price it was a year ago, which has pushed into other oils like vegetable oil, rape seed oil, even palm oil. Bakery items are up 20-30%.’

He added: ‘Over the last 10 years the amount of money the government provides for free school meals has only gone up by 1.7%, which obviously was well behind inflation even before this last 12 months.

‘We can see that is going to leave some difficult decisions for school caterers. Either they are going to potentially serve smaller portions or cheaper ingredients which isn’t going to be good for the children.’

Inflation is at a 30-year high of 7% and is forecast to hit 9% when figures for April are released today.

Meanwhile, figures were released yesterday showing that there are more job vacancies than unemployed people in the UK for the first time since records began.

The unemployment rate fell to 3.7% between January and March, its lowest for almost 50 years, as job vacancies rose to a new high of 1.3 million.

However, wages, excluding bonuses, failed to keep pace with rising prices, a situation expected to intensify because of growing food and fuel costs.

The figures show ‘a mixed picture’ said the Office for National Statistics.

Ben Harrison, director of the Work Foundation think tank at Lancaster University, said: ‘Despite employment continuing to rise, today’s figures underline the challenges facing workers who are seeing inflation eat away at their living standards.’

The data showed that there was a rise in the number of people moving from ‘economic inactivity’ – classed as those aged 16-64 who haven’t been working or seeking a job – into employment.

At the same time, people moving from job-to-job also reached a record high ‘driven by resignations rather than dismissals’, said the ONS.

‘Total employment, while up on the quarter, remains below its pre-pandemic level,’ said Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS.

‘Since the start of the pandemic, around half a million more people have completely disengaged from the labour market,’ he added.

‘However, job vacancies are still rising, reaching yet another record high.’