What exactly does it cost to produce healthy, sustainable school meals?

15 February 2024
Funding for school food in England has been allocated at different rates depending on factors such as schools’ settings, types, and locations. The current levels of funding are felt by many to be inadequate, but what level should funding be set at?

To help answer this, School Food Matters has commissioned research to determine what it really costs to produce delicious, nutritious and sustainable meals in English schools.

The research falls under our flagship Healthy Zones programme and will be conducted by Bremner and Co in partnership with Cohesion Consulting from February to July 2024. It will cover meals served in primary, secondary, special schools and alternative provision settings in England.

It will bring together partners from across the school food sector to gather evidence and build consensus on a recommended price for a school meal.

We will be working with partners to:

●      identify, review and develop data on current school meal costs, within different settings, phases and governance types, including special schools and alternative provision settings

●      identify the relative proportion of different costs, including ingredients, staffing, equipment, capital infrastructure and overheads

●      review costings through the lens of healthy, sustainable food quality assurance and policy frameworks, for example, government buying standards

●      compare the relative cost of optimally nutritious and sustainable vs. standard meals, and explain any difference in cost 

●      use this information and analysis to develop a recommended per-meal rate.

The project will be supported and guided by a Project Advisory Group made up of practitioners from across the supply chain, from school food suppliers to commissioners. The group will be chaired by Brad Pearce, Immediate Past Chair of LACA.

This research has been funded by Impact on Urban Health.