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Minister Replies To Students' School Meals Letter

The Children and Education Minister has replied to a letter he received from Victoria College pupils in November asking him to address food poverty.

The students wrote to Deputy Scott Wickenden, calling on the government to commit to offering a free school meal to every child whose parent are on income support before the next academic year.

Last week the pupils said they were still waiting for a response.

The letter, on behalf of the school's recently-formed 'food poverty advocacy group' and the wider school community, expressed concern at the number of families struggling financially.

It said they 'would like to see a formal commitment from the government that all students with parents on income support, regardless of the school they attend, would be provided with free school meals by September 2022’.

Senator Sam Mezec shared a copy of the letter on his social media page;

A school meals pilot project has been running in three Jersey primary schools since 2019, and has recently been extended to a further two schools.

Students get a nutritious meal and dessert for £2.50 each. It is free for those on 'Pupil Premium'.

In December 2020, Deputy Rob Ward lost a States vote to fast-track the extension of the scheme to all schools.

Children's Commissioner Deborah McMillan has said the need is 'urgent' follow reports 1,000 children each day in Jersey do not have cooked food.

The Children and Education Minister has now replied to the Victoria College pupils, with the government press office issuing a copy of his response:

"Thank you for meeting me to share your concerns about free school meals in Jersey and handover your letter dated 19th November 2021.

I am impressed by the thought and passion you; the advocacy group and all the signatories have shown for this issue.

I am unable to commit to your request that all students with parents on income support, regardless of the school they attend, will be provided with free school meals by September this year. This is not due to a lack of understanding, lack of funds or lack of political support, it is quite simply a logistical and resourcing issue that cannot be solved within that timescale."

The letter continues by explaining that 19 primary schools do not have a servery area suitable for hot lunches. 

"Procuring and building 19 more serveries and a supplier who can deliver thousands of meals per day is not a simple task and must be done in accordance with the Public Finances Law and Manual which aims to support everyone working in Government on the guidelines around funding and spending public money. We must also ensure the safety, quality and nutrition that we all want.

I will ensure the pilot is completed and the necessary tendering process that follows, we are moving in the right direction to achieve your aims and I hope the above explanation helps with understanding why this cannot all be done in 2022." - Deputy Scott Wickenden

Deputy Wickenden visited Victoria College in November.

A government spokesperson says the Minister had intended to hand deliver his response during a return visit to the school to speak about the issue:

"Unfortunately due to a busy end to the school term and disruptive start to the new school term, due to Covid pressures, the Minister didn’t get the opportunity to respond and sincerely apologises to the students who have worked hard to bring this forward. The Minister has requested to meet the students next week at their school to discuss this important issue."

 

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