Francis Maude: Great service from small local business

Horsham MP Francis Maude
Horsham MP Francis Maude

On Friday last week I was delighted to visit the opening of Easy Lunch’s splendid new kitchen on the Knepp Castle estate.

This is a small local business which ticks so many boxes, providing freshly made hot and packed lunches to schoolchildren and nurseries. The company’s first school six years ago was Shipley, where my wife was then chairman of governors.

After government policy had decreed that every primary school child should have the option of a hot lunch, there had been a move to fit out all West Sussex school premises with microwave steam cabinets for reheating centrally cooked food, and though this was perfectly suitable for schools with enough space it didn’t really work for small rural schools.

Easy Lunch was just getting off the ground (but emerging from what was already an award-winning baby food company) and offered an alternative at just the right time. The evidence is well documented that children who are fed well at lunchtime are better able to concentrate in the afternoon, and achieve more, than those who are not.

If the food they are given is locally grown, sourced and cooked, that has to be a good thing, cutting down on transport costs, food miles and processing while providing employment for local parents of young children which fits in well with the school day. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the new public procurement rules for locally sourced food which come into force next year, and it is good to see that an increasing number of our schools here are already well ahead of the game.

As our schoolchildren return this week for their new term, facing a more challenging curriculum, it is good to see how the success of a small local business, which really does provide a great joined-up service for our children, parents and school families, can have such a positive impact on their learning opportunities.

It is a slightly odd feeling for us to have no returning schoolchildren for the first time in 23 years, now that our youngest daughter – who was just a few months old when I was first elected as MP for Horsham – has recently finished her schooling.

I wish all of you who are returning, or starting term for the first time, a very happy and successful school year.