With celebrity chef Jamie Oliver having challenged politicians to ensure children receive nutritious meals, many education departments are finding inflexible long-term catering contracts prevent them from improving menus.
Chris Waterman, chief executive of the Confederation of Education & Children's Services Managers, said: 'Confed has called for the Department for Education & Skills to open talks with the providers of school meals, rather than 450 schools [tied in to long-term PFIs] each trying to unpick the contract.'
The problem is at its most acute where schools are in 25-year private finance initiative contracts. Most PFI companies have subcontracted meal provision, further complicating the issue.
Lesley Potter, communications director of Scolarest, one of Britain's biggest school meal providers, insisted contracts could be easily adapted.
'Whether it's an LEA contract, a PFI contract or an individual contract with a school, we believe we have the flexibility to deliver the service as we and the client want.'