Anger as prisoners, not pupils, given local food

Chicken served to Lothian schoolchildren is shipped from Poland, Thailand, Holland and Brazil. Picture: PA
Chicken served to Lothian schoolchildren is shipped from Poland, Thailand, Holland and Brazil. Picture: PA
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PARENTS are spitting feathers after it emerged schoolkids are being fed chicken imported from as far away as Thailand – prompting claims children are being treated like “second-class citizens”.

Chicken served to children in Edinburgh and East Lothian is shipped from countries including Poland, Thailand, Holland and Brazil according to revelations unearthed under Freedom of Information (FOI) powers.

The news – which comes fresh on the back of the horsemeat scandal – has been compounded by the revelation that convicts at Saughton Prison are fed chicken from a firm which sources produce locally from farms in “Aberdeenshire, Speyside and Ayrshire”.

Data released under FOI legislation to the Scottish Greens shows no poultry meat in Lothian schools is sourced from Scottish abattoirs, which supply the bulk of their produce to major supermarkets rather than schools. Today, parents revealed their dismay at the widespread importation, which saw meat from Holland, Poland, Thailand and Brazil served to Edinburgh pupils while meat from Thailand was dished up to East Lothian children.

Kids ‘getting whatever’s left’

Alison Haines, 41, whose seven-year-old son will go into P4 at Oxgangs Primary after the holidays, called for food to be sourced locally. She said: “The priority should be our children – but it seems that they are second-class citizens.

“The supermarkets are getting the quality, locally sourced product and then our kids are getting whatever’s left. It’s not right – the priority should be our children. I think they should be sourcing all school food locally. It’s upsetting to hear that our food is coming from places like Poland when we have such good food on our doorstep.”

Echoing this view, Susan Heron, vice-chair of Castlebrae High School parent council, said: “I think you will have your fair share of parents who are concerned about this. It’s something we’ll be raising at our next meeting.”

Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian and food spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said she had “long-standing concerns” about imported meat and insisted there were better alternatives than “flying chicken nuggets from Thailand” in to provide cheap meals.

She said: “We must aim for local, high quality food on our children’s plates as the norm. The Government’s Procurement Bill should be a chance to set some new standards to achieve that.

“Councils are under pressure to award contracts on cost rather than make choices that would have positive impacts for the local economy and animal welfare.”

Lack of suppliers

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh City Council said a lack of suppliers was to blame.

She said: “The council has checked with its Scottish supplier who has reported difficulties in getting a supply of locally-reared chickens due to the lack of processing facilities in Scotland.”

An East Lothian Council spokeswoman said their schools did not serve chicken nuggets and children were only offered chicken once a week.

A Scottish Government spokesman said “procurement decisions” are a matter for local authorities. The Government also provides guidance on nutritional requirements and quality standards with both expected “to be observed”. The news comes just months after it was discovered frozen horsemeat had been served to pupils in six Edinburgh schools while Richard Lochhead, cabinet secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, mooted a stand-alone food standards body in Scotland. The Scottish Prison Service has confirmed British sourced chicken is served to prisoners such as killer Peter Tobin, behind bars for the murder of three young women.

We exclusively revealed back in February how Edinburgh council spends just 71p providing meals in primary schools. Chiefs claimed the low figure was down to their purchasing power.

Calls for immediate replacement of education boss

ONE of Scotland’s most high-profile education chiefs is to quit his Lothians post – sparking union demands a headteacher be seconded to replace him “as a matter of urgency”.

Don Ledingham – director of services for people in East Lothian and education and children’s services in Midlothian – will leave at the end of the month to join consultancy firm Drummond International as director of leadership development. Drummond International was founded by Norman Drummond, previously headmaster at Loretto School in Musselburgh. Mr Ledingham leaving East Lothian Council’s education department means no-one in its ­senior management team will have a background in teaching – leading to warnings from bosses at the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association (SSTA) that the welfare of pupils and staff relations will be harmed if an appropriate replacement is not found quickly.

Alan McKenzie, SSTA acting general secretary, said: “Directors from a teaching background are able to convince councillors what the real priorities are.”

Mr Ledingham is regarded a ­prominent figures in education after he suggested that East Lothian schools should be placed in community-based trusts.

But a spokeswoman for East Lothian Counci said the new management team would be “ably supported by the wealth of educational experience that exists in the senior teams in... schools”.