Ashington Community High School in Northumberland is one of the schools now serving healthy food with wartime levels of minerals and vitamins. Head of catering Bridget Harrington said: 'When I came to the school four years ago just one in five pupils ate school meals, now three in five do so, with as many as 80% on some days.
'We buy locally and have made sure that the meals are totally fresh and healthy. I buy from local farmers I can trust, and we spend anything from 45p to 85p per meal on ingredients. I know some inner city authorities which, using the same criteria, could feed kids for 40p a head. Instant, frozen food is not cheap, as well as being horrendously unhealthy.
'We have a salad bar, a sandwich area and a burger counter selling top quality beef and jacket potatoes. Twice a week we do a healthy roast dinner'.
At Icknield High School in Luton, Bedfordshire, former Savoy Hotel chef Dave Lucas has gone down the same road. He said:'I get all my vegetables locally from farmers that sell directly. Costs are cut massively and we use organic produce wherever possible. Meat and dairy products are sourced locally, too.
'The children have a great variety to choose from. Vegetarian options are made to be exciting and full of interesting flavours'.
The Soil Association, which lobbies for the organic food industry, urged the government to spend more on school meals and to tighten regulations governing them. It said children are too often fed 'muck from a truck'.
The Department for Education and Skills said: 'We would very much encourage schools to buy local produce as it can cu t costs dramatically. We have a very strict policy on nutritional advice for schools and what they have to provide for children. In some cases it can almost halve costs with some products, and the uptake from children increases too'.