PFI keeps junk food in schools

Submitted by Anon on 3 May, 2005 - 11:34

By Martin Thomas

After the uproar created by Jamie Oliver's television series "School Dinners", the Government promised an extra £280 million to improve school meals in England.

Many schools, however, are stuck with their existing junk food for years to come, because of Private Finance Initiative contracts.

If the schools withdraw from the contracts, they will be legally liable to penalties equal to the profits that the junk-food contractor would have made on the remaining years of the contract.

Private Finance Initiative contracts - under which private companies build and provide services for new schools, hospitals, etc., in return for a profit - often also cover vending machines for junk food and drinks.

If a school removes those machines, it will have to pay again, to cover the profit the contractor would otherwise have made from the machines.

And, to nail it all down, many new Private Finance Initiative schools are built without kitchens, so that even if the school or the local authority wants to give kids freshly-cooked meals, and is willing to pay the penalties, they can't.

The Government boasts of how much it is spending on the health service and education. What it doesn't calculate is the proportion of that money going to private contractors' profits, or to pay the extra administrators and lawyers necessary for its semi-privatised, contracted-out way of doing things.

There should be good, nutritious, freshly-cooked free school meals for all children. And to achieve that we will have to abolish the whole grotesque structure of the Private Finance Initiative.

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