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Jamie Oliver is urging ministers to put more money into school dinners.
The celebrity chef’s plea follows fresh figures, which show that 320,000 more pupils have started eating hot lunches in the past year. Experts believe this rise was directly influenced by the Oliver programme.
The rise contradicts a claim by the health secretary Andrew Lansley’s, that the take-up of school meals had fallen since Jamie’s School Dinners aired in 2005. The quality of school meals was radically overhauled following the programme.
Now Oliver says Lansley and the government need to increase their commitment to improving school dinners. The star of The Naked Chef, Jamie’s American Road Trip and several other cookery shows said: “Some people in government might look at the figures and think that it's now time to take the foot off the gas because it's a success story. That would be completely wrong.”
Oliver continued: “Now is the time to move up a gear. This is the time for education and health departments to invest in those schools which still have problems with lack of training for dinner ladies or who suffer from having a dining area that's too small or uninviting.”
However, the government has refused to promise an extension to the £80 million a year school lunch grant. The grant was initiated by Labour and will run out in 2011. Oliver has said that the government could “save lives,” by renewing the grant. The government has cut funding to public services, in a bid to reduce Britain’s economic deficit. Some school building projects have already been cancelled as a result.
A Department of Health spokesperson said that contrary to media reports, Mr Lansley has applauded Jamie Oliver’s work with schools.