School meal uptake has fallen to its lowest level since its introduction at the tail end of the Second World War as the Jamie Oliver effect bites, research has revealed.
The Local Authorities Caterers Association (LACA) study shows there has been a 20% fall in uptake in school meals since the chef's Jamie's School Dinners programme was broadcast two years ago.
Just four in every 10 children at secondary school now opt for school dinners - believed to be the lowest level of uptake since the service was made mandatory in 1944.
Although the Government has pumped in £220m additional funding in to the school meals system since 2005 and set up the School Foods Trust to champion it, critics have consistently claimed more money is needed.
Scolarest, which is owned by Compass Group and is the largest provider of school meals in the UK, recently ditched two major contracts citing a failure to agree commercial terms with the local authorities in question.
In other areas of the country, such as Dorset, councils have struggled to meet the raised expectations of pupils and parents as they lack kitchen facilities in schools and the additional money on offer is not enough to build new ones.
The full findings of the LACA report are due to be released this Friday at the organisation's annual conference.
By Chris Druce