A CATERER fears she may have to close her business after a school effectively banned lunchtime pupils from giving her custom.
Christine Hardman blames TV celebrity chef Jamie Oliver for the ban.
She relied heavily on pupils from nearby Greencroft School in Annfield Plain, Stanley, County Durham, to keep her Canny Kitchens takeaway outlet in the village Front Street afloat.
They would call in for lunches of mince and dumplings, liver and onions or toad in the hole for £1.50 per portion.
But from last month the flow of customers from the 750-pupil school dried up.
Now the 54-year-old grandmother of 12 says a change of policy at the school is threatening her business.
Students have been prevented from leaving the school for their lunch break through the entrance nearest to Canny Kitchen, just 200 yards away.
Christine said headteacher Phil Keay had prevented pupils from walking into Annfield Plain by closing off the exit nearest to the shop in a bid to encour- age more pupils to stay for school dinners.
When pupils forced a hole in the school fence to try to “escape” that was quickly sealed.
“I can understand the school wanting to encourage pupils to eat on the premises, and I know that TV chef Jamie Oliver’s programme Jamie’s School Dinners a few years ago was critical of meals in County Durham schools. Since then they have tried to improve,” said Christine.
“But to effectively ban pupils from coming here by making it difficult strikes me as unfair, especially as I have always tried to provide healthy takeaway meals for all of my customers, including Greencroft pupils.”
Christine said she used to have around 30 pupils a day calling for lunch, and her takings are between £150 and £200 per week down since the students stopped visiting.
“During the school holidays I expected trade to fall off, but I was anticipating it picking up again in September.
“Six weeks into the new term and it is getting no better. I have tried to appeal to the school but I have been getting nowhere.”
Christine, who has been running Canny Kitchens for 15 months, says Annfield Plain needs more businesses to provide a healthy economy.
“I only employ two people, I am open lunchtimes, but I am a responsible businesswoman. I insist customers do not drop litter. I provide orange cartons and if I see any lying around I try to find out who was responsible and tell them they won’t get served again.
“But trade is difficult enough in this economic climate without the school making it harder to survive.”
Despite several telephone calls from The Journal Mr Keay declined to comment yesterday.