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Kitchens under scrutiny as schools face pressure to serve up hot meals

An investigation into how many school kitchens are struggling by with burnt and blackened saucepans and a lack of other essential equipment has been launched by the Children's Food Trust in England.

The Trust says the information will show whether schools are prepared to serve up the School Food Plan, written by Leon restaurant founders Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, which aims to tempt more children to opt for school meals.

In a report published last year, the charity estimated that 16 per cent of primaries in England have hot food bussed in from another school kitchen or allow sandwiches only.

The report also pointed out that a further five per cent of schools have "regeneration" kitchens, where pre-prepared foods are reheated and says that children are more likely to opt for school dinners when they are freshly cooked on site.

Now, the charity wants more information about the condition of kitchens and the facilities available.

Rob Rees, the Trust's chairman and chef, said: “I go into schools all the time and meet wonderful cooks and dinner ladies, some have very beautiful brand-new state-of-the-art equipment. Others look like wartime kitchens. The staff do a fantastic job but imagine what they could do with a really good modern kitchen.”

The School Food Plan includes a checklist for headteachers of what works in improving school meal take-up, and the government has agreed to provide funding for specialist organisations to go into 5,000 schools that are struggling in providing good meals.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has also agreed to create "food boroughs" in the capital to showcase best practice.

Sue Pilkiw, headteacher of Sacred Heart Catholic primary in Sheffield, said that take up for school dinners jumped from 50 out of 211 pupils to 150 after switching from having meals delivered in insulated boxes from a neighbouring school to cooking fresh food on site last year.

“It has had a massive impact,” said Mrs Pilkiw. “Children who are well fed are happier at lunchtime and happier in class. When you can smell the dinners being cooked on site and you have that feeling that someone is looking after you, it makes it special.”

Schools can fill in the Children's Food Trust survey at:

 

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