As schools prepare to re-open at full capacity next week, Jeanette Orrey, co-founder of Food for Life, offers support and guidance for schools, cooks and caterers.
Schools return on 8th March. The date is all over the news and social media. But wait a minute, schools have never really closed. Schools have been open for vulnerable and key worker children throughout the pandemic and teachers, office staff, catering staff and site staff have continued to work throughout lockdown 3.0.
The catering teams have been preparing hot meals, packed lunch food parcels, Universal Infant free School Meals and paid meals all through the pandemic. During the most recent lockdown, occupancy levels in schools have been relatively high, but when all pupils return next week caterers will hopefully be feeding most of them. How is that going to work? Some of the questions being asked are:
Where are the children going to eat?
Whether the children will be eating in the dining hall/school hall or classrooms will be for the Headteacher and senior leadership team to decide. Communication with the catering team is really important here, as there will be so much to think about. If using the dining room or school hall please refer to our School Food Checklist for Covid-19.
Will the bubbles still be in place?
Again, this decision will be down to the individual school. I know some schools are having whole class bubbles and the lunch will be served in the classroom. For advise on this, please refer to our checklist.
Will the school want hot or packed lunches?
At the time of writing we are waiting for a further update from the Department for Education but so far, they have said the following:
We expect kitchens to be fully open and normal legal requirements will apply to the provision of food to pupils, including ensuring food meets the standards for school food in England. This includes for those eligible for benefits related free school meals. You should also continue to provide free school meal support to pupils eligible for benefits related free school meals and who are learning at home during term time.
My hope is that children will still be able to have hot, healthy, nutritious and locally-sourced lunch upon their return school.
Some catering staff may be self-isolating or shielding, therefore the kitchen could be facing staff shortages while catering for increased numbers. For many school staff and children these first few weeks are going to be very different; reassurance and communication will be hugely important.
I know that you will do the best for your school and the children in your care. If you need any help remember the Food for Life team can support you.