Kitchen staff are now serving up more school meals than ever before in Kirklees schools.

And many thousands of those are down to the success of the universal free school meal initiative, introduced just three months ago.

Latest figures for Kirklees schools show that 91% of eligible children are now taking a free school meal and staff are confident the children are getting an increasingly healthy diet.

As part of the new School Food Plan, school meals became free for all pupils in reception and Key Stage 1 (year 1 and year 2) from September 2014, and staff have been working hard to implement the increased meal provision from 30,000 to the current level of 34,600 per day.

The meals are intended to support classroom attainment through improved concentration levels as a proven result of taking a healthy, balanced lunchtime meal.

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Kirklees Catering Service is one of only 10 local authority catering services nationally to achieve the silver Food for Life catering award. The award provides parents of children who take school dinners with a guarantee that their children are eating meals which are freshly prepared and healthy, made with local and organic ingredients.

The emphasis is very much on healthy eating. Meals contain no undesirable food additives or hydrogenated fats, 75% of dishes are freshly prepared, meat is from farms which satisfy UK welfare standards and eggs are from cage-free hens.

In addition kitchens ensure that no endangered fish are served, information about where the food has come from is on display and all suppliers meet food safety standards.

Clr Shabir Pandor, cabinet Member for Schools, said: “The latest uptake figures for Kirklees are a fantastic achievement; 91% is way in excess of the 85% target set for us and is testament to the hard work and dedication of our catering staff and managers in ensuring we were prepared to deliver the significant increase of meals in our schools.”

“And the good news doesn’t stop there. In Kirklees, the increased provision has meant the creation of 70 jobs in schools in our area.

“Our school catering service in Kirklees is the only school catering service in Yorkshire to have achieved the Food for Life Silver award. We are very proud of that achievement as it puts us right at the top of school meal provision in our area and means that the school meals served in Kirklees are of the highest standard.”