Today we’ve got the second part of our blog about Universal Free School Meals by our guest blogger, Morag Lyall, editor of EDUcatering magazine which offers a monthly look at the school food industry.
Now knowing what funding is available to you, the first step is to do a bit of research: speak to your catering manager about what, if any, new equipment is needed. Do you need to invest in new ovens? New dining furniture? More crockery and cutlery? Will you need to employ more staff?
It is important to talk to parents as well to see if they all plan to take up the offer of free school meals and then to work out your expected rise in meal numbers.
With this knowledge, how are you going to get every pupil through the dining room doors? Is there enough space in the dining area? Will you need to stagger lunchtimes or extend the lunch break?
There are short and long-term options available to you. While you might have the option to carry out a full kitchen and dining refurbishment over the summer holidays, many schools certainly won’t be able to. So why not rent equipment for the first year or two? Kitchen pods can be rented for around £1,000 a month, which sits outside in the playground. Outdoor pods are also a solution for reducing queues, as they can serve pupils grab and go-style meals outside the dining room.
It is also worth speaking to your suppliers, many of whom are keeping well up to date with developments as they are announced and will be able to offer advice on anything from changing food deliveries to getting creative with meal ideas.
A large focus of the School Food Plan is aimed at headteachers, recognising that getting them on board is crucial to UIFSM – and the other points in the Plan – working. For this reason it is setting up a ‘What Works Well’ website to share best practice and this will be launched soon.
The Children and Families Bill has now gone before Parliament and it places a legal duty on primary schools to deliver UIFSM. This is a great opportunity to improve the health of young children and while there isn’t much time to plan the implementation of UIFSM, getting it done right is crucial.
You can find more information about funding Free School Meals on our Universal Free School Meals topic.