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Jamie blamed as 20pc fewer children eat school dinners

 

By SIMON WALTERS - More by this author » Last updated at 13:03pm on 8th July 2007 commentIconSm.gif Comments (8)

The number of secondary pupils eating school meals has dropped to an all-time low following Jamie Oliver's television campaign.

Official figures published this week will show a 20 per cent fall in the uptake of school meals since Jamie's School Dinners was broadcast two years ago.

Numbers have plummeted to around four out of ten, believed to be the lowest level since provision of the service was made mandatory in 1944.

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jamieR1902_468x699.jpgIn the kitchen: Jamie Oliver

 

 

Education sources said pupils are rejecting the pasta, broccoli and organic ingredients championed by Oliver and turning to packed lunches and takeaways.

The figures, to be announced at a conference of English school catering chiefs, are a major embarrassment to the Government. It supported Oliver's television crusade after more than 200,000 people signed a Downing Street petition demanding action.

Gordon Brown agreed to spend an extra £235 million on improving the quality of school meals and a review panel was set up to monitor nutritional standards.

New rules were introduced last September banning crisps, chocolate and salt and restricting fried food to twice a week.

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jamieES0304_468x550.jpgJamie with school dinnerlady Nora Sands in hit programme Jamie's School Dinners

 

 

The first full survey of the effect of Oliver's programme has been carried out by the Local Authorities Catering Association, whose suppliers provide more than 2.5million school meals a day.

Critchlow_228x342.jpgJamie backlash: Parents fed their children through the gates at Rawmarsh Comprehensive in South Yorkshire in response to new food guidelines instigated by Jamie Oliver

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It presents the Government with a huge decision. Does it push ahead with the healthy meals in the hope pupils will learn to like them - and risk seeing the numbers who opt for takeaway fish and chips or pies grow still higher?

Or does it offer more chips and fried food in the hope of enticing them back to the canteen? If so, it will be a blow to Oliver. Viewers saw him cry in a cupboard as his meals were at first rejected by pupils - but eventually he won most of them over.

However, it was not long before a backlash started. Initially, education chiefs dismissed it as a temporary blip but the new figures suggest the revolt is continuing.

Yesterday, Julie Critchlow, who opposed Jamie Oliver's campaign, said: "I knew I was right."

Mrs Critchlow, 43, was one of a group of mothers who passed takeaway food through the fence of Rawmarsh Comprehensive in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, to children who did not like Oliverstyle healthy meals.

"His ideas on food are a load of rubbish and that's why kids won't eat it," she told The Mail on Sunday.

"My message to Jamie Oliver is, 'Mind your own business.'

"If councils are losing out, they're going to have to go back to food that kids will eat.

"Which is what I said in the first place - give them what they want."

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