Fresh look at Sheffield school meals

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SCHOOL meals in more than 120 Sheffield schools will be provided by a new contractor from September - which is pledging to cook all lunches fresh on site within five years.

The move by Taylor Shaw would see an end to meals being cooked in larger school kitchens and driven by van to smaller ones.

The firm is pledging to upgrade kitchens and source local products where possible.

Currently 38 schools in the city have meals shipped in.

A feasibility study estimating the cost of the kitchen improvements will now be a priority.

Taylor Shaw has signed a five-year deal to provide thousands of meals every day, taking over from current contractor Chartwells.

If a further four-year extension to the contract is agreed by the council the deal will be worth £48 million.

Taylor Shaw provides lunches at Parkwood Academy, Silverdale, Talbot and Newfield schools, as well as 300 schools across the country.

Around 50 other Sheffield schools will continue their own separate catering arrangements.

The company was chosen from four which bid for the work, following a rigorous selection process.

School representatives including headteachers, a chair of governors and business managers were involved in the process.

The new contract covers 121 secondaries, primaries, special schools, nurseries and children’s centres.

Bridget Ball, head at Nether Green Infant School which could benefit said: “We are waiting for more information about the likely impact of this new deal, but putting in a kitchen would certainly be a big change for us.

“We are pleased to see the commitment for good food, locally sourced, which as an eco-school is very important to us.”

Cabinet member for children’s services Coun Colin Ross said parents and schools would be given more control over the food served to their children.

“It’s a good step forward, and a good deal for the city.”

Meanwhile Mum Helen Hush, whose son Taylor is a pupil at Nether Green, welcomed the news. She said: “The food at the moment is fine, Taylor never complains, but bringing lunches from the junior school does limit the school’s flexibility,” she said.

“At the moment, so they can plan properly, you have to book for a full week of lunches - whereas some children might just want to have meals for one or two days. I think such a move will be really popular.”

Graham and Margaret Round said their six-year-old grandson was in his final year and loved the food already on offer.

“A lot of children bring packed lunches and so they may be tempted, and the pledge of more local fresh food is a very good thing,” Graham said.

Julie Wood, mum of Ben aged six, said: “If suitable plans were put forward I’m sure parents would be all for it.”

Taylor Shaw said plans to upgrade or install kitchens would depend on extra funding being generated.

Leah Barratt, service manager for the council’s School Food Service said: “Taylor Shaw provided an excellent proposal which embraced schools’ requirements regarding flexibility and a more bespoke approach to school meals.

“The proposals showed a strong commitment to partnership working including regular consultation with parents, children and young people, schools and the authority.”

The new price of school meals is yet to be agreed - currently lunches cost just under £2 a day.

The council hopes to increase take up so more children eat a healthy school lunch while keeping the prices down.