by Pat Fellows

The latest news in school catering

The latest news in school catering

Latest figures from the Department for Education as of the 24th September show that 84% of schools remained fully open.1 As half term approaches, I think we should reflect on the relative success that the majority of schools in England have remained fully open. It shows the commitment and hard work from all head teachers and staff to ensure a safe environment for our students.

To start, I feel it is important to note in reply to a written parliamentary question, Vicky Ford, The Parliamentary Under – Secretary of State for Education announced, “That due to the priority of responding to the Covid 19 outbreak, and considering the robustness of the existing standards, the government has no plans to update the School Food Standards”.  I, personally, am thrilled with this news as I had seen proposed changes that were too strict and would put children off eating their school meals.  There is a difficult balance between acknowledging rising obesity in children, but ensuring a large number of children are not going hungry.

The number of children entitled to a free meal aged 8-16 is increasing sharply.2 There are now 2.2 million benefited free school meals including a rise of 900,000 every day.  This is likely to increase in the coming weeks.

At present school meals uptake is running at 70% of pre lock down numbers.3 Of course, not enough children are benefitting from a nutritious school lunch but with schools mainly closed for 5 months and all the restrictions that are now in place, I believe that from a standing start of nearly zero, 70% is quite an achievement.

Many schools have managed to provide a hot cooked meal but too many are only providing a sandwich offer.  In response LACA has launched “HOT’OBER, enjoy hot nutritious school lunches daily”.  It has been created to encourage school leaders to work with their caterers to reinstate hot meals.  I am hopeful that now that schools have overcome and sorted out any initial problems with their protection systems, they can be persuaded to provide proper hot school meals once more which is even more important in the winter months.

LACA has also decided to run National School Meals Week from 9th – 13th November.  School Catering staff are key workers in their own right and have been serving school food throughout lockdown and during school holidays.  We owe them a huge thank you for their flexibility, dedication and hard work.  There are 5 themed days for NSMW, and you can find all the information on the LACA website.

There are of course many more topics of conversation that have been occurring in the background whilst the above has been going on. However I think a small highlight on just some of the other things Bidfood have been working on is worthwhile.

  • There is not much time left before Brexit will happen. Bidfood will be informing customers about its plans over the coming weeks.
  • Christmas Dinners are fast approaching. Bidfood has made sure that all the usual food supplies will be available for Christmas dinner.
  • There is an obligation on schools to provide food to free meals pupils who are isolating or infected because of Covid19. Bidfood has created a list of 12 suitable ingredients for you to use in these parcels. If you’re interested in seeing this, please do speak to your Account Manager.

Finally, Marcus Rashford has launched a petition which, within the day had reached well over the 100,000 signatures needed in order to raise a debate in parliament on the 3 points that Henry Dimbleby has put forward which includes, free school meals for all children whose parents are in receipt of universal credit. We look forward to this coming to fruition and hearing more on this matter.

In the meantime, I hope you find this helpful.  Let’s be upbeat and look forward to happier and safer times.


Attendance in education and early years settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak: 23 March to 15 October 2020 
Public sector catering: Demand for free school meals rises sharply this Autumn
LACA: School meal uptake in England running at 70% of pre-lockdown figure 

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