Charity calls to improve school kitchens

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A national charity is calling on schools in Derbyshire to help it rate the state of the nation’s school kitchen facilities.

The Children’s Food Trust has launched a campaign to gather the first, comprehensive picture of kitchen infrastructure in schools - to make sure facilities are in shape to deliver on the aims of the national School Food Plan.

Research by the charity estimates that around 73 per cent of primary schools have full production kitchens, while almost 16 per cent either have to get hot food transported from elsewhere or have only a cold food service.

However, the charity says it’s working with schools whose kitchens are too small, too old or which rely on equipment which is out of date, and that the vast majority of schools it talks to have at least some issues with kitchen kit, layout or size.

It’s calling on schools to join a national school kitchen survey, to help gather better data from across the country.

Chairman and chef, Rob Rees, said: “We’ve worked with lots of schools over the years where catering teams are coping with kitchen facilities that aren’t up to the job because of their age, their size, their layout or their equipment – costing schools when it comes to time and fuel.

“These fantastic teams are always determined their facilities won’t compromise the meals on children’s plates. They make do and get on with the job, because replacing kitchens and their equipment can feel like a complicated, expensive business.

“But good kitchens are a vital part of a thriving school meals service. The School Food Plan has thrown down the gauntlet for taking school meals to the next level. But if we want every child to have a great meal at school, we need to help schools get their kitchens right – and that starts with knowing how many kitchens are in serious need of some tlc.”

The trust’s research shows that more children tend to eat school meals in areas where more schools have the kitchen facilities to offer freshly-cooked food, while studies have shown the financial and time savings which can be made by improving kitchen equipment and facilities.

School business managers, catering managers and school cooks around the country are being urged to join the census, which has also been supported by the National Association of Business Managers, at www.childrensfoodtrust.org.uk/schoolkitchens13.

Myles Bremner, director of the government’s School Food Plan, said: “The School Food Plan has shown that a great school kitchen is at the heart of providing good school food. We’ve seen many great examples of creative schools running cost-effective kitchens that serve healthy, nutritious and tasty food that children want to eat.

“We hope this campaign will encourage all schools to consider the benefits of taking a whole school approach to their food provision – and key to this is having the right facilities and skills in the kitchen.”