AN INCREASE of 10p per school meal has been agreed by county council leaders – and it will come into effect from November.

The price rise is being introduced to meet the rising cost of providing school meals, Hampshire County Council said this evening in a statement.

The additional cost takes the price per meal to £2.50.

"This continues to represent good value for money for a two course, freshly cooked school meal", added the statement.

Council chief for children’s services and young people Councillor Patricia Stallard said: “We’re very proud of the high standard of school meals that our catering service (HC3S) provides - using good quality British produce. A healthy lunch at school contributes significantly to a child’s wellbeing and their capacity to learn, through to the end of the school day.”

Around 12 million school meals were served in Hampshire’s primary and secondary schools last year, the council said.

It added that all school meals meet the Department for Education’s rules for healthy school dinners and its catering service HC3S has worked with schools, pupils and parents for more than 30 years, to "create menus that are varied and follow the guiding principles of healthy eating".

Cllr Stallard added: “I am keen that school meals remain affordable, but we must balance this against the increasing cost of providing those meals. Mainly this comes from the ever-increasing cost of ingredients. In addition, HC3S is actively supporting the County Council’s climate change programme and whilst changes such as sourcing alternatives to single-use plastic are projected to incur slightly higher costs, it is certainly the right thing to do in a climate emergency.”