The education minister has committed to reviewing school meals following concerns about portion sizes and value for money.

Julie Edge was asked about school dinners in the House of Keys on Tuesday, only a week after she told members a number of portion sizes at primary schools had been reduced as they were over recommended calorie limits.

This led to a number of concerns among MHKs that children may not be eating enough, especially as parents struggle to ‘heat and eat’ due to the soaring costs of living.

This week, Garff MHK Daphne Caine said her friend’s five-year-old, who is a vegetarian, had a very good diet before she started attending school.

‘Now she gets a baked potato and rather a lot of cake,’ she said. ‘A lot of carbs are being reduced, but they’re being loaded up with sugar.’

Mrs Caine asked the minister whether she was aware of the amount of food that was wasted as children aren’t eating it and if she would review the menu, adding that compiling it into numbers isn’t translating into children eating it.

Ms Edge said: ‘I will commit today that we are looking into this, we are going to look at the value for money for the school meal, and certainly with regards to the costs, it’s not a cost cutting exercise, school meal prices haven’t gone up for three years.

‘Is it a priority for the department at the minute? We’ve got many challenges and we will put it on the list to look at.’

She also said that she wasn’t aware of any concerns raised specifically on the quality of vegan or vegetarian options but welcomes any comments.

‘We still also ensure pasta, rice and noodles are available daily on the salad bar, as well as a variety of fresh fruit and yoghurts,’ she said.

‘We wish to look at this more closely but need to consider children get a good healthy meal, accessible to all with the right calorific content.’

Asked if fresh fruit has been removed from the menu, Ms Edge said there have been challenges around items currently readily available but it’s a ‘global challenge’.

This follows Tesco in Douglas rationing some fruits and vegetables due to adverse weather conditions in Spain.

Arbory, Castletown and Malew MHK Jason Moorhouse referenced the accusations of meal sizes getting smaller and said he recognised there must be cost pressures.


He asked if Ms Edge has seen what is on offer at primary schools, to which the minister said she had visited schools over lunchtime and that there are ‘local and global challenges with the supply chain at the present time’.

‘The health of our pupils is of paramount importance, she added.

Mr Moorhouse also wanted to know about the department’s involvement in ‘meat-free Mondays’ at primary schools.

Ms Edge said her department follows the Food Standard Agency’s guidance, which advises which types of food should be served at schools along with the recommended portion sizes and recipe ideas.

The minister said: ‘This guidance also provides suggestions on how to manage food allergies and intolerances.

‘Information provided as part of this guidance recommends encouraging children and young people to have a meat free day each week by using alternatives such as soya mince and quorn.

‘This approach has been adopted in our menus for primary schools and this meal option happens to fall on a Monday each week but the department doesn’t allocate any specific day.’