No such thing as a free school lunch

1st January 1999 at 00:00
GERMANY. Subsidised school meals will end in the last two districts of eastern Berlin to offer them.

Nine years after the fall of the Wall, the subsidy of one-third of the cost of lunch was dismissed by the Berlin authorities as a "relic of former times".

Other districts have already cut their subsidies. "We kept them as long as we could," said Michael Szulczewski, the schools adviser for Hohenschonhausen district .

The decision comes as record numbers of families in the city are living on social security.

East German schools were full-day schools with meals provided; now the school day is shorter with children returning home around 1pm for lunch or bringing sandwiches.

Warm meals are usually offered by outside providers for about Dm70-90 (Pounds 23-30) a month. The subsidy kept meals cheap for all families, not just the poorest.

Officials said it was a surprise that the subsidy was kept for so long given the harsh cuts in Berlin's education budget. They claim parents are prepared to pay more. One official said: "Experience showed that children did not lose out on a warm meal when the subsidy was withdrawn."

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