Firm warns of job losses if free school meals are axed

A catering company warned many of its staff would lose their jobs if the government axes free school meals.

Wednesday, 14th June 2017, 7:08 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th June 2017, 1:58 pm
Patrick and Emma Treasure with Lord Francis Maude

The Easy Lunch Company, which employs 40 people, provides 2,500 hot meals per day to 13 schools in Horsham and Crawley. Owners Patrick and Emma Treasure said three-quarters of those meals fell within the remit of the UIFSM (Universal Infant Free School Meals) scheme, which was introduced in 2014.

The government now plans to scrap the scheme because it is not seen as “a sensible use of public money”, proposing the introduction of a free breakfast instead.

It is a move the Treasures said would have a “catastrophic effect” on their business and would “just not cut it” for the county’s children. They said: “There are so many families who are just about managing who really will not be able to afford to pay for a lunch but really need one. It is these children who will suffer the most.

“How can Theresa May possibly think that breakfast will be enough to see them through the day. If they need breakfast because they don’t get it at home, those parents will not make the effort to send their child to school with a nutritious packed lunch. They need their hot lunch in the middle of the day.”

The Easy Lunch Company has flourished since opening nine years ago and, after winning contracts for four schools in Crawley in 2016, had to upgrade to a new kitchen in Coolham.

The kitchen was officially opened in May by Lord Francis Maude of Horsham, who praised the growth of the business, saying it “helps many areas of our local community”.

Now the Treasures asked: “We would need to make over half of our staff redundant – what will that do to the local economy? Their morale, mental health – then multiply that over the whole country and you have a very big problem.”

A county council spokesman said it was “too early” to comment, adding: “Once we hear more from government we will be able to look at the implications for current arrangements.”

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