The rocketing rise in the price of a school dinner is to blame for the dramatic drop in the number of pupils buying them it has been claimed.
Figures show that as prices have gone up by 70 per cent in just four years, sales have gone down by six per cent in Falkirk’s primary schools.
The SNP has warned the Labour-controlled council its “short-sighted” policy of hiking the price of healthy option meals will ‘feed’ the so-called obesity time-bomb as more youngsters head for snack vans and fast food shops.
In 2007 school meals were bought by 63 per cent of primary pupils, but today that number is below 57 per cent. In January the council raised the price of a meal from £1.40 to £1.55.
Education spokesman Councillor Tom Coleman claimed: “These figures are extremely worrying, particularly compared with national trends which show the uptake going in the opposite direction and rising from 46 per cent four years ago to just under 52 per cent today.
“The SNP administration kept the price of the healthy option school lunch at the lowest level in Scotland, and had the highest uptake as a result, for very good reasons. We felt it was important young children got into good habits early in terms of a healthy diet, particularly as according to the experts we face an obesity time bomb.”
In 2007 the uptake of meals in Falkirk’s primaries was the fourth highest in Scotland, but had slipped to seventh by 2010. The figures produced at the request of the SNP following a Best Value meeting also show the number of free meals served in its primary and secondary schools is also at an all time high, up, from 97 to 99.7 per cent and 92 to 98.9 per cent respectively.
Mr Coleman added: “The fact more children qualify for free school meals due to Scottish Government policies and the impact of the recession means the figures are skewed and actually worse than indicated by education officials.”
Council leader Craig Martin claimed: “Pupils are taking packed lunches to school because the facilties to allow that are better and more are taking advantage of that. What we are seeing from these figures is more of our youngsters being entitled to free meals which sadly reflects the flat state of the Scottish economy, a disgraceful situation that Mr Coleman’s colleagues at Holyrood are doing very little to address.”