Jersey's Children's Minister under pressure over school meals plan

Recent figures reveal around 1,000 children in Jersey do not have access to a hot meal each day. Credit: ITV Channel TV

There are concerns Jersey's free school meals programme is failing to target those who need them most.

The pilot scheme was launched at three schools in 2019 and has since been extended to a further two.

However, the chair of the island's education scrutiny panel is confused as to why town centre schools with more low income families are still not being included.

Recent figures reveal around 1,000 children in Jersey do not have access to a hot meal each day.

In a letter, students at Victoria College called for a 'formal commitment' from the government to allow all families who claim income support to benefit from free meals, regardless of the school they attend.

Deputy Scott Wickenden, Jersey's Children and Education Minister, was criticised for his delay in responding to the letter.

He said the government would be unable to extend the scheme "not due to a lack of understanding, lack of funds or lack of political support".

He said: "The primary schools in Jersey were mainly built in the 70s and they were never built to have a place to serve food. None of them meet the standards in terms of health and safety for serving food. It's been a challenge during Covid-19 with the restrictions to get the plan out into schools."

However, politicians in the States Assembly remain unconvinced.

Senator Sam Mézec said: "That sounds to me like an excuse ultimately for doing nothing, and we know there is desperate need in some of these schools."

"We've heard the shocking reports that potentially up to a thousand children a day in Jersey are not getting a hot meal. That really isn't good enough in a wealthy society like ours. If there are teething problems with a programme like this then I think they should just work hard to get over them and they ought to do that at a much quicker pace."