This initiative has been welcomed by schools, parents and caterers alike, in fact by virtually all those involved in catering for educational establishments.
However, such an initiative brings with it certain problems in implementation: deputy prime minister Nick Clegg was confronted in July by figures obtained by the BBC, which revealed that of the 99 councils who replied to a BBC survey, a third (34) were having to use money from their own budgets.
And the Local Government Association has further warned that 47% of local authorities report not having enough money to ensure their school kitchens are up to scratch.
So there have been comprises being made for instance, the pledge of hot meals has been amended to include cold meals, sandwiches and healthy snacks. And for those establishments who have found funds to refit, refurbish and in build the necessary kitchens, the date of implementation, September 2014, has been extended.
Mr Clegg responded to the negativism by saying: “All I would say to those people who would constantly undermine and cynically seek to denigrate a policy which is as popular as this, as well-researched as this, as well-funded as this, let’s wait . . . because this is a big change and in any big change of the school system we have hundreds and thousands of schools of course there will be some schools who will have some difficulties.”
In addition to introducing new lunchtime procedures schools will have to contend with new food standards from January 1, 2015 as well, new food standards will come in that include:
• The school’s approach to its provision of food
• Food education (including practical cooking).
• The role of the catering team.
• The school’s strategy to increase the take-up of school lunches.
However, the guidelines are still adamant that schools should be working towards providing hot meals and therefore, schools need to work towards that aim.
Effectively, this is a major opportunity for schools to upgrade their catering facilities and operate a successful working business. A world of potential opens up: corporate events, external clients, extra income . . . and whether you are refurbishing or starting from scratch, the most important item in your kitchen will be the oven.
What do you look for in an oven?
• Maintenance support network
Rational ovens, as recommended by AC Services (Southern) have proved their resilience and reliability, as well as their cost efficiency. The manufacturer has a long term relationship AC Services as an approved partner, with numerous maintenance and service packages available to suit any budget, even that of an educational establishment.
The fact is that the implementation of free school meals means that educational establishments must take advantage of the pledge of £150m to improve kitchens and dining facilities and the promise to small schools of £22.5m to extend or improve kitchen facilities. Invest in Rational and reap the benefits!