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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 March, 2005, 09:33 GMT 10:33 UK
Chef Oliver turns focus to Tories
Jamie Oliver and Tony Blair
Oliver has met Mr Blair and does not want to favour one party
TV chef Jamie Oliver is to have talks with Conservative leader Michael Howard to try to win cross-party support for his campaign to improve school meals.

On Wednesday Mr Oliver welcomed the government's decision to pump an extra 280m into school meals in England.

He also delivered to Tony Blair a petition bearing 271,000 signatures supporting his Feed Me Better campaign.

Mr Oliver, whose series showed how little was spent on some school food, said he was politically neutral.

Following the announcement of more money for meals at least 50p will be spent on each primary school lunch and 60p in secondaries. Some primaries currently spend as little as 37p on ingredients.

Lancashire hotpot

One of the UK's first TV cooks Marguerite Patten, on Thursday told the BBC children had healthier diets during wartime rationing.

Ms Patten - a food policy adviser during World War II - said despite the shortages of some foods, the diet was "splendid", because it was relatively low in sugar and fat.

She said children could expect a weekly roast at school - with a small amount of meat and plenty of fresh locally-produced vegetables - plus other dishes such as fish pie, Lancashire hotpot and corned beef and salad.

Oliver said new money for school meals would "make a difference to every kid in this country".

Jamie Oliver delivering his petition to Tony Blair
Jamie Oliver delivered his petition to Tony Blair

The Prime Minister paid tribute to the chef, but said the government had been working on the issue for "quite a long time".

The extra 280m announced by the government will be spent over the next three years. Some 220m will go on improving ingredients and targeting areas with the poorest services.

Suppliers would provide whatever foods the schools specified, said group sales director for distribution firm 3663, Andy Kemp.

He said a number of authorities already gave clear specifications, down to the meat content in sausages.

"Our role as a distributor is to deliver the requirements of our clients," he told the BBC.

The cash will also be used to improve the training of catering staff and to extend their hours so that they can prepare fresh food on school premises.

The other 60m is for a School Food Trust to advise schools - and parents - on healthier meals.

Opposition parties have welcomed the extra funds, but suggested the government was jumping on the school meals bandwagon.

Healthy eating initiatives are already under way in schools in other parts of the country.

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