Page last updated at 13:30 GMT, Friday, 6 March 2009

Children shunning healthy meals

Jamie Oliver outside No 10
TV chef Jamie Oliver campaigned for healthy school meals

Pupils are shunning healthy school dinners and choosing to buy lunch from supermarkets or the local shop, according to a Highland Council report.

The drop in the uptake of secondary school dinners in the region was averaging 1,400 meals per day.

Children interviewed for the report said they were looking for value for money. Quality was not important.

One pupil said they could get two Lorne sausages, fried egg in a roll and juice for 1. Dinner costs 1.85 in school.

The report will be presented to Thursday's education, culture and sport committee.

From April-December 2008, the average drop in school meals was 1,000 per day.

Annually, this amounted to 200,000 meals and a loss of 463,600 to the council's catering account.

However, calculations covering January 2008-January 2009 found the loss to increase to an average of 1,400 meals per day.

The report said there were various factors behind the drop including a government obligation that healthy meals are provided, school closures due to bad weather and industrial action, falling school rolls and the credit crunch.

In the paper to councillors, officials said: "The impact of school meals on pupils' health and wellbeing both now and for the future is becoming more explicit.

"A school meal provides a nutritious balanced meal for an active and alert mind and body."

They quoted research carried out in a campaign led by TV chef Jamie Oliver that healthy meals helped children do better at school and cut rates of absenteeism.

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