FAILURE to attract as many Cambridgeshire children as they hoped to eat school dinners could lead to a £350,000 shortfall by the end of the financial year. The county council accepts they had set an ambitious target to increase the numbers buying into the

FAILURE to attract as many Cambridgeshire children as they hoped to eat school dinners could lead to a £350,000 shortfall by the end of the financial year.

The county council accepts that it had set an ambitious target to increase the numbers buying into the school dinner service but believes improvements to date have been impressive.

Finance chief Nick Dawe will tell Cabinet members next week that the budget for 2009/10 had incorporated the 10 out of 10 campaign target to increase paid meal numbers by 10 meals per day per school.

"At the end of the summer term, the primary schools paid meals have shown an average increase of just under five meals per day - an increase of 9.5 per cent compared to the same period in 2008/09," he said.

"This is also five paid meals per day per school below target, which equates to 58,600 meals or £111,000 income to the end of the summer term."

By the end of the financial year, he said, it will equate to "173,000 meals or £352,000 below budget at outturn".

A council spokesman said: "By the end of the summer term in July this year, we had managed to increase the take-up of school meals by five meals per school per day across the county over the same period last year.

"This was impressive, but fell short of the ambitious target of 10 which we had set ourselves."