School meals need a another helping of money, says Oliver

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The Independent Online

The TV chef said it was almost impossible to estimate how much is needed to train dinner ladies and raise the quality of ingredients. Oliver appealed for more funding as he launched the UK's first specialist training kitchen for school cooks. He also said he would take a fresh look at the state of school meals next year when he makes a follow-on series from Jamie's School Dinners.

Speaking at Ashlyns Organics in North Weald, Essex, he said: "It will take hundreds of millions of pounds to get where we want to be. When you break that down by each pupil, it equates to a couple of pence per day."

Oliver said he hopes to hold further talks with Education Secretary Ruth Kelly next year when the School Dinners Trust has finished assessing the costs of improving school nutrition. The government has already promised to provide an extra £280m to improve school meals.

"In 10 years' time we should be a shining beacon across Europe to show what can be done about school meals. But it's going to be very hard to fix 20 years in which dinner ladies have been demotivated and deskilled."

Oliver said he was grateful to "Tony and Ruth" for funding the in place for improvements, but called for a network of training kitchens across the country. He said: "You need to radically retrain the dinner ladies and to support them and pay for their extra hours."

The training kitchen was also launched by author of The Dinner Lady, Jeanette Orrey, a former school cook who collaborated with Oliver on his series. Sixty people have passed through her course since July but managers said they could reach only a small number of dinner ladies.