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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April, 2005, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
School dinners taste challenge
BBC Wales education correspondent Hywel Griffith
Hywel Griffith
BBC Wales education correspondent

Parents trying dishes
Llysfaen Primary School held a taste test for parents of pupils
A council which spends the least in Wales on school meals has challenged parents to put them to the taste test.

Cardiff Council has a budget of 40p for the ingredients in its primary school meals - a recent BBC Wales survey showed the average as 48p.

But the county's catering managers say they are confident they provide a healthy, balanced service for pupils.

The issue was prompted by the campaign by TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve the state of school dinners.

Cardiff's Head of Catering Sue Eakers said: "There's a lack of confidence at the moment after the Jamie Oliver programme, people are asking is that representative of all the food in the authorities in the UK - the answer is no!".

Anglesey 48
Blaenau Gwent 42
Bridgend 44
Caerphilly 47
Cardiff 40
Carmarthenshire 51
Ceredigion 66
Conwy 46
Denbighshire 68
Flintshire 50
Gwynedd 45
Merthyr 43
Monmouthshire 42
Neath Port Talbot 46
Newport 42
Pembrokeshire 42
Powys 69
Rhondda Cynon Taf 40
Swansea 46
Torfaen 44
Vale of Glamorgan 46.5
Wrexham 51
Source: BBC Wales

The council has seen hundred of pupils withdrawn from school meals in the last month, and is keen to reassure parents that they offer value for money.

Ms Eakers said: "If we can prove to people that the quality is there, the content is there, and range and the nutrition is there, the argument about the 40p goes away.

"We spend 2m on food every year in Cardiff, and we drive a pretty hard bargain."

On Monday evening parents at Llysfaen Primary School were able to test the school menu for themselves, and question the catering managers.

Karen Williams has two children at the school, who she has withdrawn from school meals. But after tasting the food, she's considering changing her mind.

She said: "I'd taken them out of school dinners because I wasn't happy (after) having watched 'Jamie's School Dinners'. "But having seen this I'd be quite happy to put them back. I'm a vegetarian, and I'm very impressed with the vegetarian options."

School lunch
Cardiff says it drives 'a hard bargain' on meal ingredients

Other parents were concerned with the amount being spent on ingredients, but were pleased with what was being offered.

"I've tasted the sausages with all the hidden vegetables in," said Jayne Powling, who also has two children at the school. "I thought they were lovely. And I've tasted the pizza, and again I think that's something my children would eat."

Mrs Powling is also considering returning one of her children to school dinners.

"I have one daughter who has just gone on to sandwiches now and I didn't know if it was the best thing for her to do. Looking at the food they're going to be giving them now, I might persuade her to go back to dinners."

The council were quizzed by parents for not always implementing healthy options.

Parents were concerned that only a small slice of apple or six grapes were being offered as part of a Free Fruit initiative. Managers said they would look again at the options available.

More parents across Cardiff will be given the opportunity to test our their school's meals in a special week of events in June.

How can school meals be made healthier?
05 Apr 05 |  Have Your Say
Dinner ladies on the front line
31 Mar 05 |  Education
School caterer demands more cash
21 Mar 05 |  Education
'Most' school dinners under 50p
24 Mar 05 |  Education

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