HAMPSHIRE’S school caterers spend less than half their budget buying British food.

Figures released following a Freedom of Information request show the county council spent only 41 per cent of the total £2,520,178 budget in 2009/10 on UK produce.

Southampton City Council told the Countryside Alliance, which carried out the research, 50 per cent of its spending went on food from Britain last year.

Hampshire’s in-house catering firm HC3S last month reported serving record numbers of school meals, using ingredients from local suppliers including locally grown fruit and vegetables, pork and beef from Hampshire farms, and New Forest free range eggs.

Council leader Cllr Ken Thornber boasted that the county’s school meals are “bursting with local produce”.

But Alice Barnard, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance Foundation, said: “When times are tough, too often the public sector turns to foreign suppliers for cheap goods.

“But if more schools looked to local producers to fill their food needs, they would be investing in higher quality meals for pupils, which would help keep the children healthy and improve concentration, and put taxpayers’ money back into the local economy.”