Infant free school meal menu being reviewed after it was “simplified” to deliver government’s flagship policy
- Credit: PA
Free school lunches given to thousands of Norfolk children are being reviewed after the company that provides most of them said it had to 'simplify' the menu this term in order to deliver the government's flagship policy.
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg last year announced all infants in England would be entitled to free school meals from September, but critics have claimed the scheme was poorly planned and rushed through.
Norse, which caters for 289 Norfolk schools, said its meals were analysed by a registered dietitian to ensure they had the right nutritional balance, with fresh fruit and cooked vegetables available every day.
At the start of the new academic year, it said it was on track to deliver what it described as a 'mammoth project' within the government's funding, but has now said: 'We accept we have simplified the menu in light of the implementation of universal infant free school meals.'
It said the menu was currently being reviewed by its menu team, made up of parents, cooks headteachers and children.
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A parent was invited on to the forum after highlighting differences between the menus before and after the introduction of universal free infant school meals – which included:
• fewer desserts that incorporate fruit;
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• less variety of vegetables and salad;
• World Food Thursdays, which included beefburgers (America), sausage and mash (Britain) and meatballs with Spanish-style tomato sauce (Spain).
She said she was concerned the daily choice between desserts – which include 'all time favourite toffee cream tart' and 'scrummy chocolate pudding with chocolate sauce', or fruit – meant children could go through term eating minimal fruit.
She added: 'I thought that a company that specialised in feeding young children would have better skills in making fresh fruit the more appealing option.'
A spokesman for Norse said: 'The current menu has been created with the new universal infant meals in mind, using tried and tested recipes that we know are appealing for children and manageable for kitchen staff.
'We have strived to ensure there is variety in what is on offer but have to balance this with what we know children will eat, to minimise waste and ensure children aren't left hungry and are ready to learn in the afternoon.
'Throughout the last month we have been in close contact with the 289 schools that we cater for, so that we know what works well and can adapt our spring/summer menu as necessary.
'We accept we have simplified the menu in light of the implementation of universal infant free school meals and this is currently being reviewed by our menu team... We are also working on new recipes for our World Food Thursday, to introduce next year.
'We are now serving more than 25,000 meals across the county each day and this term have received just five complaints about the menu, compared with a number of compliments from headteachers and parents. We will be taking all of this feedback into consideration.'
What do you think about the free meals on offer to Norfolk infants? Email email@example.com