Bucks schoolchildren get free school meals

Pupils at Haddenham St Marys School enjoy their free school meals - the national initiative starts this week
Pupils at Haddenham St Marys School enjoy their free school meals - the national initiative starts this week
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Schoolchildren across Bucks are eating healthier at lunchtimes after a national initiative to bring in free school meals for infants was rolled out this week.

Among the schools to have benefited is Haddenham St Mary’s where they have had almost 100% take-up of the meals.

Headteacher Karen Collett said: “The free school meals have gone down really well so far. One-hundred-and-one pupils have taken advantage and we have had just the one opting out.”

In September 2013, Haddenham St Mary’s was providing no school meals.

Although the school’s new kitchen is not likely to be ready until the October half-term, a temporary solution has been found thanks to assistance from the Children’s Food Trust and the LACA’s (Lead Association for Catering in Education) .

Haddenham-based catering firm Kirsty’s Kitchen is currently supplying home-cooked, fresh and nutritious food ahead of the new kitchen opening.

Ms Collett added: “Although we have had to work creatively and quickly to increase our capacity, we are thrilled to have overcome this challenge and now be able to offer all infants a great school lunch.

“The advice and support from the Children’s Food Trust and LACA was invaluable, helping us plan the kitchen layout, staffing, budgets, equipment needed and pointing us in the direction of good suppliers and extra funding.

“We would not have been in the position we are today without their support.”

Children’s Food Trust chief executive Linda Cregan said: “We’ve been really impressed by the determination, will and enthusiasm of Haddenham St Mary’s School in overcoming their challenges and offering all their infants a healthy, tasty lunch.”

Not all schools across the county are currently able to provide hot lunches.

County council deputy cabinet member for education and skills Bill Bendyshe-Brown said: “Given the timescale and complexity of this operation we are providing a sandwich lunch for 48 schools with the aim of meeting our full commitment of providing universal hot meals by mid-term or earlier where possible.

“To date some 20 schools have been able to secure their own local solution with the support of the available funding, but the county council, with the support of the Schools Forum, has secured a local ‘superhub’ that will have the capacity to provide the required number of meals for our other schools.”

The hub is expected to open within the next three months.