After more than 30 years serving up school dinners in a South Norfolk primary school, Janet Roberts is hanging up her apron for the last time.

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On Friday, staff and pupils at Preston Primary School celebrated Mrs Roberts’ 32 years behind the kitchen hatch serving up the likes of crunchy vegetable bake and toffee cream tart to generations of youngsters.

Mrs Roberts, 63, started as school cook when Preston First School opened in Tasburgh, near Long Stratton, in 1980. It was the first time the village school had the facilities to prepare school dinners, as the previous Victorian building didn’t have a kitchen.

In that time, it is estimated that Mrs Roberts has prepared and cooked well over a quarter of a million meals for hundreds of children during her 32 years at the hot plate.

“I’m so sad to leave. I’ve enjoyed all my years here. It’s like a family with all the children, teachers and everyone. It’s a lovely school and the village is so lucky to have it,” she said.

Headteacher Lesley Payne said: “It’s hard to imagine lunchtimes without Janet – she loves the company of the children and knows every child at Preston Primary. With a warm smile and cheery words, she encourages our children to eat a healthy lunch and makes lunchtime a happy experience for everyone. We are going to miss her in the kitchen but she has already volunteered to cook with the children in the classroom!”

David Hughes, chair of governors, said: “School dinners have always been popular at Preston Primary with Janet at the kitchen hatch serving up a range of tasty and healthy meals. As well as filling their stomachs, Janet has fed the hearts and minds of generations of schoolchildren.

“She loves making sure the children get what they need from their lunch and they must love it because they keep coming back for seconds and thirds.”

A special leavers’ assembly was held on Friday when the school said goodbye to Mrs Roberts along with the Year 6 pupils who will be heading off to high school. The children even filmed a special interview with Mrs Roberts talking about her time as the school cook to be shown at the assembly.

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