COUNCIL officers aiming to stave off cuts in school catering services have come up with a few of their own. Subsidies, queues and waste have been reduced in East Renfrewshire schools with a new award-winning approach.
The service, called Catering for the Millennium, tries to give children what they want, rather than what a council committee thinks they should eat. Out goes meat and two veg, and in comes a pound;1 packed lunch, or a choice of two hot snacks such as pasta, pizzas and baked potatoes for pound;1.20.
Catering managers have reversed declining demand for school meals in the old Strathclyde region. Introduced in September, the scheme should add pound;50,000 to the pound;763,000 revenue in the pound;1.3 million school catering budget. Officers hope that in the future, more income will lessen the need for subsidies.
Sheila Tulloch, manager of the council's school catering section, rejects suggestions that the council has sacrificed the principles of healthy eating to balance its books. "We make our own pizza and the use of some processed foods such as chicken nuggets are the carrot, if you like, to persuade children to eat a healthy package," she says.
Along with nuggets comes a dessert such as fruit, yoghurt or fromage frais. In winter there is soup instead of dessert.
Vegetables will still be available, albeit with an emphasis on ones such as sweetcorn, coleslaw, baby tomatoes and potato products. Chips are offered once a week.
The new service, which followed a survey of pupils and parents and planning of menus by catering managers, also regards presentation as important. Speed is another feature, since advance notice of menus, prepayment and fewer items to select cut queues of children unsure what to choose.
Rona Kennedy, headteacher of Kirkhill Primary in Newton Mearns, says: "We're serving double the number of meals in a third of the time it took us before. The children are eating less mashed potato and over-cooked cabbage, and more pasta, salads, garlic bread and grapes - the kind of things they want to eat."