Parents may be asked to contribute to the spiralling costs of Kosher school meals, Jewish News can reveal.
Partnership for Jewish Schools told Jewish News it is in discussions with the Department for Education to explore possible avenues to address the crisis including “investigating the possibility of parents assisting in meeting the differential in the cost for kosher meals”.
As reported by Jewish News, Jewish schools have been facing reduced availability of kosher meals due to rising costs that have forced specialist catering businesses to withdraw their services.
Rabbi Joel Sager, Headteacher of Pardes House Jewish Primary School said: “The Headteachers of Jewish schools are increasingly concerned that as yet there has been no resolution to this very real issue for our schools and our pupils , especially those on Free School Meals. We very much hope that between central government, the GLA, the boroughs and the community, that a positive resolution will be urgently found.”
The news from PaJeS comes as a Barnet Councillor called for religious ‘opt-in’ for the free school meals programme.
Conservative Party Eva Greenspan of Finchley Church End is suggesting that London Mayor Sadiq Khan covers the cost of meal provision at religious community schools, whilst parents chip in for transportation and supervision
Earlier this year, Sadiq Khan promised to roll out a new one-off programme to give free school meals to primary school children across London, beginning in September.
Greenspan,who leads a cross-party group looking to solve this problem tells Jewish News that “parents from some of London’s diverse religious communities have been dismayed to hear that the programme might not include provision for the special dietary requirements of their children.
“Barnet is home to many religious communities that would benefit from this provision, including a substantial Jewish and Muslim community that require meals to be Kosher and Halal respectively.”
Greenspan is suggesting that the Mayor covers the cost of provision of the meals, and schools will ask the parents to chip in for the special transportation and supervision requirements that are needed.
Speaking to Jewish News, Greenspan says: “It is an indisputable truth that hungry children cannot perform in school as well as their peers. Many families and schools in Barnet, where I am a Councillor, were excited that the Mayor had announced this plan and looked serious in his delivery of it.”
Whilst Greenspan highlights that the Mayor’s office has “lauded the benefits of a hot meal during the day, especially for children from deprived homes for whom it may be the main sustenance they receive”, she says “we have attempted to contact the Mayor’s office for tangible conversations to propose solutions to ease the pressure schools are facing, but with very limited response and no meeting.”
Greenspan adds that The Free School Meals programme could “offer a lifeline to all struggling parents but without any tangible discussion on the provision of these special dietary requirements, it threatens to exclude those who have special dietary needs.”
“The academic year ends incredibly soon. This scheme is supposed to start in September, but the schools are being left out to dry hoping that they will finally have an answer before the end of this academic year in less than three weeks.”
Greenspan says that Councillors, teachers and parents alike “believe this would allow the Mayor to maintain his promise to provide free school meals and deal with the challenge facing families and schools so that all London children can get the meal they deserve and meet the religious of Jewish and Muslims communities.”
Andrew Gilbert, Co Chair of London Jewish Forum who amongst others has been working closely with Barnet, the GLA and various schools tells Jewish News: “There is so much work going into this at the moment. It is complex. We all have to prioritise that every child gets at least one hot meal per day.
“It is great that central government decided to give free schools meals for infants and Key Stage One. It is super that the Mayor has done the same for Key Stage Two. However, it does not take into account the cost of kosher school meals.”
Gilbert adds that national, regional and local government are now all aware of the problem and “know we have to see solutions before September”.
He says that the best solution will be “a mixture of support from national and regional government and the community and parents will have to contribute too. We believe that such a solution could happen.”
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