School Food Plan
Universal Free School Meals
Free School meals
APPG School Food
(Image courtesy: School Food Matters twitter, 2023)
Good afternoon everyone!
I’m delighted to be here today with you all in Leeds at the 2023 APSE Seminar.
I am also the Private Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition, Keir Starmer
However, what brings me here today, is that I am also the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on School Food, which I set up in 2010 and have chaired ever since.
The APPG is made up of parliamentarians from all parties, charities, local authorities, food distributors, caterers, academics and many, many more, and APSE, with the fantastic Vickie Hacking, provide secretariat duties to the APPG.
The APPG provides a cross-party parliamentary platform to keep school food, child hunger and food education on the political agenda in the UK Parliament, campaigning to ensure that children receive high quality meals in and outside of school.
Across the last year, public sector catering has suffered through a really tough time, with skyrocketing energy costs and record inflation levels impacting heavily upon food and staffing costs.
Catering teams working across schools, hospitals, the care sector and universities have had to amend menus, tighten budgets and work really hard to ensure that quality food is still delivered in what seems like an ever-worsening situation.
Last time I spoke to you, we were awaiting the long term policy ambitions from the Government in response to Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy review. But as you know the Government failed to deliver much more than a new slogan.
The Government acknowledged that the food industry is bigger than the automotive and aerospace industries combined, yet all they did was re-announce existing funding in a series of vague intentions, lacking in any concrete proposals to tackle the major issues facing our country.
At the very moment the UK food system is exposed as being quite fragile under pressure from world events, the Government proved itself be tired and out of ideas, failing to deliver on the ambition that our country needs.
In Henry’s own words, it didn’t set out a clear vision as to why we have the problems we have now, and it didn't set out what needs to be done.
This was a disappointing way to start the summer, as gas prices and food prices began to rise. And then things took a turn for the worse, still.
The Government in crises, a merry-go-round of new ministers including prime ministers, policy at a standstill, mounting record levels of inflation, basically 12 weeks of political gambles, causing so much chaos that our economy tanked... families across the country started to really be impacted by this crisis which was frankly made in Downing Street.
And yet, public sector caterers continued to put food on the table – an increasingly difficult task, as our APPG heard at our meeting in September.
The results of an APPG survey launched by APSE found that, in just three months, close to 50% of school meal providers surveyed had experienced an increase in food costs of at least 20%.
Nearly 60% reported that utility costs increased, with one respondent noting a five-fold increase in utility costs.
These stats will only have worsened since the survey was carried out last year. While inflation is decreasing slowly, very slowly, food prices continue to rise; there is alarming situation facing school food providers, with food prices increasing from 10-30% across all areas.
This has meant some catering managers are now having to – reluctantly – turn their backs on local procurement. And in some extreme cases, I’ve heard that the number of hot meals are being reduced, and the high quality ingredients are having to be switched out for cheaper alternatives.
I know schools are doing all they can to make sure costs aren’t loaded on to paid-for meals. But the average price of a school meal will rise to £2.65 this year meaning more children will be at risk of being denied access to a hot, healthy meal.
In our survey, 60% of respondents said that dinner money debt had increased – that’s children coming to school with no money to pay for a lunch. Just under 50% reported that they had seen a decrease in the number of paid meals being served.
These are the impacts of the wider cost of living crisis, affecting families who are above the threshold for a free school meal.
That takes us to the main policy push from the sector across 2022; campaigns for the extension of free school meal eligibility really gained traction.
More than 800,000 children living in poverty in England are currently ineligible for free school meals, due to having a household income of over £7,400 before benefits. These families may be forced into the decision between feeding their children or paying their energy bills.
(Thankfully,) in Scotland and now also Wales, the roll out of Universal Primary Free School Meals has continued, helping to combat food insecurity facing children in those devolved nations. I know new challenges for providers have appeared with this roll out, and I’m looking forward to learning about them, but overall this is a really positive step for school food policy, making sure more children receive those healthy, nutritious meals.
All of us here will know too well that hungry children cannot learn.
Yet the UK Government has continued to have its head stuck in the sand relating to England.
That’s really disappointing, when the sector has been so strong and unified in message.
While there are elements of quick relief that could be provided - funding increases for example - school caterers and the wider public sector needs more than that. We need to make sure that long-term these issues are fixed, so that public sector caterers are never using the words “existential” again.
13 years of managed decline of public services has left us vulnerable to those “shocks”, like Ukraine and Covid before it. We need more than just last minute frenzies of sticking-plaster politics. We need to be more resilient.
That means taking on low pay and workforce issues, delivering a serious long-term plan to get the economy growing again, making sure that working people don’t pay the costs of the Tory cycle of doom.
We need to start making those fairer choices. And in this moment of chaos, I know that there is a growing impatience for a change in the way this country is governed.
And with an election en route – this year or next, who knows – it's time to really get demanding, and bring forward the enthusiasm for school meals.
I know that experts and campaigners – some of you in this room today – will keep mounting the pressure upon the Government, and of course the opposition parties too. And know I am doing my bit in this regard also.
I know that without the people in this room who work so hard to keep public services afloat, that this country would grind to a halt. The issues that matter to you need to be in the public eye, and they need to be at the door of the Government.
I hope to be able to work with many of you going forward in the weeks, months and years to come. I’m sure I will.
Winners of the APPG Excellence in School Food Awards and the APSE Soft Facilities Management Innovation Awards 2023
2023 APSE Seminar speech - Leeds
Tory levelling-up rhetoric
New data from the NHS has shown that more people are waiting a month for a GP appointment than at any time since when records began in 2017.
1,988 people in Washington and Sunderland West faced a wait of 28 days or more to see a GP in October alone.
A further 5,503 people had to wait more than two weeks.
1,988 Patients made to wait over a month for a GP appointment in Washington and Sunderland West.
News from Westminster
Tory levelling-up rhetoric
APPG on Ovarian Cancer
Special Educational Needs
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - Jun-July 2022 number 152
Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report.
report - Jun-July 2022 number 152
Tory levelling-up rhetoric
Labour will sort out backlog and put patients at core of NHS.
When my constituent Adam (his name has been changed to protect his privacy) asked for an appointment with a doctor, he was made to wait three months. At the consultation he was told he needed a full hip replacement and that he would have to wait another nine months for a surgery date. Six months later, he called the hospital to ask when that date might be. The hospital told him that he would have to wait a further twelve months.
ECHO COLUMN: We will sort out backlog and put patients at core of NHS.
British Heart Foundation
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, pledged to work with the British Heart Foundation (BHF) to help make ‘science fiction a reality’ during a special parliamentary reception.
Image copyright British Heart Foundation, 2022.
Celebrating 60 Years of life-saving research - British Heart Foundation
child holiday hunger
Holiday Hunger Task Group
Westminster Hall speech on regional inequalities and child poverty
Image copyright, Parliamentary Recording Unit, 2022.
Sharon Hodgson MP - spoke in a parliamentary debate about regional inequalities and child poverty held in Westminster Hall, called by Labour colleague Liz Twist, MP for Blaydon.
The debate couldn’t be more relevant at the current time, when children in the North East have the second highest poverty rate in the UK, and 51% of Washington and Sunderland West households with children are in receipt of UC or Working Tax Credit. Many of these families were struggling before the pandemic, but a toxic combination of low incomes, a cost-of-living emergency and the Government’s £20-a-week cuts to universal credit has sent many families into crisis. Speaking in the debate, I focused on the provision of free school meals – a quarter of North East Children in poverty are not eligible for a free school meal. Hungry children cannot learn, and I wanted to make it clear that the Government’s talk of levelling up is meaningless when thousands of children in poverty are being left behind. Food insecurity must be addressed.
Westminster Hall speech on regional inequalities and child poverty - 02/03/2022
You can read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website
When Penshaw monument comes into view on the A1 or A19, you know you’re almost home.
The announcement of a coronavirus vaccine feels like that too.
There is now a route out of this pandemic and its hold on our daily lives; soon we may once again be able to hug our nearest and dearest.
A light has shone at the end of the tunnel, there is an end in sight.
We are almost home.
This of course could never have happened if it wasn’t for the hard work and dedication of scientists here in the UK. My congratulations and thanks go out to all who have helped us get this far.
But we cannot forget that by leaving us in heightened restrictions since September 18th and failing to support local businesses, the Government has disadvantaged the North East throughout this pandemic.
It is fantastic that Newcastle’s Royal Infirmary will be one of the first hospitals in the country used as a vaccine hub, with the North East yet again leading the way.
However, every part of our region must have the resources and plans in place to deliver the vaccination programme as promised.
The vaccine rollout will not happen overnight, but the Conservatives must not leave the North East at the back of the queue once again.
On Boxing Day 2018, Sunderland fans set the record for attendance of a League One football match, with over 46,000 fans in attendance. Two years on, even if under tier 2 restrictions, only 2,000 fans would be able to go and watch the Black Cats.
Our region’s economy needs fans back in stadiums, hospitality open and local businesses thriving once more.
I know that these measures have taken their toll on us all but with a review of restrictions on the way, we cannot undermine the progress we have made.
I therefore urge everyone to enjoy their festive celebrations in line with the national and regional guidance.
As ever, if you have any concerns, please email [email protected] and I will do my best to help. I wish you and your families a very happy Christmas.
ECHO COLUMN: We must not be left at the back of the queue again
Update on Coronavirus – September 2020
- As at 24 Sept 2020.
New measures have been introduced across the North East, including in our constituency, to try and bring down the rising number of Coronavirus cases. New nationwide guidance has also been introduced, but please note the local measures override those.
Update on Coronavirus – September 2020
Sharon Hodgson, Member of Parliament for Washington & and Sunderland West and Shadow Minister for Veterans has welcomed the new measures in Washington and Sunderland West and across the North East, aimed at curbing the rising cases of Coronavirus.
(Clicking on the above image will take you to guidance provided by the Government on the new restrictions)
Sharon is calling on all constituents to follow the measures, in order to keep everyone safe and ensure that our NHS is not overwhelmed.
Full guidance from the Government can be found here:
Information from Sunderland City Council, including FAQs, can be found here:
‘’I welcome the new measures being introduced, as the rise in cases of coronavirus in recent days has been concerning. The Government must now provide any additional support that our Local Authority needs for improved testing and to support people where necessary.
‘’It is vitally important that everyone follows the new measures, in order to keep us all safe, and protect our NHS.
‘’This will be a challenging time for many people, but I know that we can work together and bring the cases down in the coming days and weeks.’’
Sharon Hodgson MP welcomes new measures in Washington and Sunderland West to curb rising cases of Coronavirus
Holocaust Memorial Day
Free School meals
Holocaust Educational Trust
Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Jan-Feb 2020 number 124
Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report