Catering bosses are delighted with the early success of the new free school meals project in Kirklees.
They insist all schools are on track in delivering Free School Meals entitlement which came in at the start of the new school term.
It signalled the introduction of the Government’s Universal Free School Meal entitlement for 4 to 7 year olds and the message from Kirklees’ school catering service one week on is: “We’re on track”.
Throughout the summer months work took place in some schools across the area to ensure all kitchens were ready for the increase in meal numbers.
Clr Shabir Pandor, Cabinet Member for Schools, said: “We were already in good shape in Kirklees school kitchens due to the level of investment and modernisation that had been taking place before the idea of universal free school meals was introduced.
“Some schools have needed work carrying out, but a full audit of needs was taken prior to the summer break, and required work was completed to enable the service to provide an estimated additional 4,500-5,000 meals every day.
“It’s also great news for the Kirklees economy as the service has employed an additional 60 members of staff over the summer to meet the increased demand.”
Only 1% of packed lunches meet the nutritional standards that currently apply to school food. The Kirklees in-house school catering service is the only one in Yorkshire to hold the prestigious silver cater mark award meaning they use fresh, organic ingredients wherever possible, locally sourced, traceable meat, free range eggs and prepare nutritionally balanced menus with each individual school.
They even do things like prepare sauces with ‘hidden’ vegetables, ensuring that even the fussiest of eaters receives a meal that’s packed full of vitamins and nutrition.
Clr Pandor added: “These days working in a school kitchen is about more than providing a school lunch. All menus are nutritionally analysed and agreed with each individual school.
“On top of the obvious health benefits provided, catering staff also get involved in educating children about fresh, healthy ingredients and cooking from scratch through cooking schools.
“Many children are learning about food through on-site allotments and growing produce themselves. Catering staff are being trained to work with children in school and support the food education programme which is crucial to ensuring health, wellbeing and success in the future.”