Schools have been advised to order long shelf-life food and to prepare for delays in deliveries caused by disruption to food supply chains as a result of Brexit.
The Department for Education has updated guidance on how schools, FE colleges and local authorities can minimise the effect of potential changes to supplies on pupils and young people in their care.
It warns: "The new UK Border Operating Model will apply to all goods entering the UK from 11pm on 31 December 2020.
"It is important for all schools, FE colleges and local authorities to prepare for potential changes to food supplies so they can minimise the effect on pupils and young people in their care."
Brexit: Possible impact on school food supplies
Speaking to The Guardian, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders' union, said: “Let’s be frank: there’s almost nothing that any school can meaningfully do to mitigate the effects of Brexit, as they have no control over what will happen after 1 January.
“So it is entirely wrong for the government to offload responsibility for a successful Brexit outcome on to schools and other public services.”
The guidance says that schools may need to consider changes to their food supplies and planning.
These include ordering longer shelf-life products, such as frozen foods or foods that can be safely stored at room temperature, and being flexible with delivery times to allow for transport delays.
It also tells schools that they should contact any food suppliers before 1 January 2021 to check whether they will need to change meals or ingredients, and whether their secondary suppliers are prepared.
However, the guidance reminds schools that, should they have to change ingredients, they should ensure that they avoid allergens.
It also specifies that while changes to school meals are allowed under the school food standards, schools need to still ensure that they meet nutritional standards and special dietary needs, and that they provide free school meals to students who qualify.