A SNP councillor has been accused of “breathtaking ignorance” after claiming North Lanarkshire Council was throwing food away in schools “while children starved”.
Councillor Tom Johnston, education spokesperson for the NLC SNP group, raised concerns at a meeting of the authority’s Joint Negotiating Committee for Teaching Staff at the Civic Centre last week.
Speaking on the Poverty Proofing Our Schools report, the former teacher said: “Years ago,the schools meals service would offer children “extras” after all meals had been served. This old tradition has gone.
“The catering service, I understand, is actually duty-bound for environmental reasons, to quickly dump any remaining food after all meals have been served.
“The council, commendably, sets up breakfast clubs to ensure that deprived children are fed and ready to learn.
“Then at lunch time we throw out surplus food which many of these same children could eat. This is senseless. “A return to the old tradition of “extras” would allow teachers, using subtle discretion, to target food at genuinely needy children.”
He added: “I hope this anomaly can be addressed. The catering service and the teaching service must get together to ensure that deprived children in North Lanarkshire never stay hungry while council food is thrown out.
“Children from some severely disadvantaged households can arrive too late for breakfast clubs. This means they may starve until lunchtime.
“Even after a lunch, long-term nutritional deprivation can mean they still require food. We know a full stomach is needed for good learning in the classroom.”
However, his Councillor Johnston’s comments came under fire from North Lanarkshire’s convener of education, Councillor Frank McNally, who insisted there is “minimal wastage” in the area’s schools.
He said: “Councillor Johnston’s comments are nothing short of a scandal and display a breathtaking ignorance of the excellent efforts of our school staff in supporting the most vulnerable children in our communities.
“No child goes without anything to eat at lunchtime.
“On a daily basis teachers and catering staff work together to ensure no child goes hungry at school, whether at breakfast, lunch or at home time.
“They go to great lengths to provide for children who have not been fed, in a discreet and sensitive manner.
“Where we are aware of issues the children are provided with larger portions and, in many cases, are given packed lunches home to ensure they have something to eat in the evening.
“We have minimal wastage within our school canteens.”
He continued: “Free bread is also available to all children at lunchtime as part of the Government’s nutritional guidelines.
“Our 92 breakfast clubs cost just 20p per day and give children a healthy start to the school day.
“Councillor Johnston should reflect upon his shameful comments and the potential negative impact they may have on staff in our schools who do so much to support those vulnerable children who most need their help.”