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Food fight - politicians clash over school dinners

By SPP Reporter

school dinners
school dinners

MORAY Council's leader has demanded a retraction of an "outrageously false claim" that only 16 per cent of the food fed to local schoolpupils comes from Scotland.

The region's MP Douglas Ross and the Conservative council group leader Tim Eagle last week criticised the fact that only 16 per cent of the food provided by a public body called Scotland Excel comes from within this country.

However, Scotland Excel provides less than half the school dinners served in Moray.

Cllr Graham Leadbitter (SNP, Elgin South) said: "It appears that unlike the local and very well baked produce sourced by Moray Council’s catering team the Conservatives' research on this is completely half-baked.

"Instead of 16 per cent, the reality in Moray is that Scottish produce is four times that amount, with a spend of well over £600,000 per year out of a total of £1million spent on food.

"This false claim by the Conservatives belittles the sterling work done by the Moray Council’s catering team.

The original article is below:

Moray’s MP has expressed disappointment that only 16 per cent of food served in local schools is sourced from Scotland.

Douglas Ross has spoken out following the release of information which shows how Scotland Excel, the shared national procurement service, spends its money to feed the nation’s pupils.

The Conservative MP said: “These figures are very disappointing.

“You would expect an agricultural area like Moray in the North of Scotland to source a much higher proportion of its school food locally.

“I really think we should be doing a lot better. Farming is a very important part of Moray’s economy and our products are second to none. I hope Moray Council looks at these figures and explores ways in which it can increase the amount of locally sourced produce that ends up on the plates in our school dining halls.”

Mr Ross’s call for action is being backed up by Councillor Tim Eagle, who is a farmer.

Cllr Eagle (Buckie , Conservative), said: “I plan to refer these figures to the Council’s Audit and Scrutiny Committee.

“We surely can improve our performance.

“We owe it to our farmers and our children to seek local produce at every opportunity rather than having food travelling thousands of miles with all that implies for the environment.”

"It is also completely irresponsible and could discourage parents from using the excellent school meals service, which is providing well prepared, nutritious and affordable local food for our primary and secondary pupils day in and day out."

Mr Ross replied that Cllr Leadbitter was "well aware" that he had originally been talking about figures from Scotland Excel.

He said: “Graham Leadbitter sent out a press release on this matter but he hasn’t tried to contact me by email or letter about it, which sadly suggests this is more of a political points-scoring exercise for him.

“As someone with very close family links to catering in Moray schools – my mother was a school dinner lady for most of her career – I’ll take no lectures from Graham Leadbitter on this issue.”

A Moray Council spokeswoman said the spend on local produce is 44 per cent of the school meals budget.

She added: “Our well-established relationships with suppliers means our pupils enjoy fresh local produce wherever possible, including food sourced from Huntly, Forres, Elgin and Nairn."

"This also gives a significant boost to the local economy, as last year alone we spent more than £450,000 on food for school meals from local suppliers.”

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