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We'll keep serving school dinners in no-deal Brexit, Norfolk catering giant says

PUBLISHED: 06:00 03 October 2019 | UPDATED: 08:02 03 October 2019

School dinners in Norfolk will be safe from the worst repercussions of a no-deal Brexit, major supplier Norse Group has said. Picture: Archant

School dinners in Norfolk will be safe from the worst repercussions of a no-deal Brexit, major supplier Norse Group has said. Picture: Archant

Archant Norfolk © 2013

The company which supplies school dinners to thousands of Norfolk pupils has offered assurances that meals will keep being served in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Norse Group, which provides more than 25,000 primary school meals a day in Norfolk and Suffolk, said its use of locally-sourced produce and flexibility in menus would help protect against the impacts of a no-deal exit on the food and drink sector.

It came as the Department for Education (DfE) wrote letters to schools, local authorities and academy trusts across the country in an attempt to gauge their preparedness for no-deal.

The letter - signed by Lord Agnew, a former director of the Norwich-based Inspiration Trust - also offered a reminder of government advice on school catering, medical supplies and data protection.

There have been concerns that school meals could be subject to ingredient shortages or price hikes in the event the UK leaves the EU without a deal. The DfE has recommended schools get in touch with their catering suppliers to ensure they are "making necessary arrangements".

Nick Maddox, group director of Norse Group, is confident its catering arm can cope following contingency planning with its supply chain.

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"Our menus are seasonal and use a high percentage of locally-sourced produce which helps mitigate the risks of ingredient shortages and temporary menu changes," he said.

"Where this is unavoidable, we will react flexibly and adapt menus as necessary in order to fulfil our commitment to Norfolk schools and ensure nutritional standards are met."

Academy trusts including the Norwich-based Rightforsuccess Trust were considering the possible repercussions of no-deal before receiving the letter.

Rightforsuccess chief executive Don Evans said the trust had identified areas where it could be affected and was either taking action in advance, for example by contacting catering and medicine suppliers about their own plans, or actions it would take in the event of a risk being realised, for example if there was a fuel shortage.

The Wensum Trust, which is based in Hellesdon and runs 11 schools, said it had also been making Brexit preparations, including reviewing data protection and HR policies, and following government and local authority advice.

In a statement the trust said: "We will continue to do all that we can to try to minimise any impact and will work with key partners and authorities to ensure we can provide the very best for our students in any situation."

Last Friday Schools Week reported the DfE was facing accusations that it "misled parliament" after denying the existence of preparation plans for a no-deal Brexit which two months earlier it said had existed.

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