Price freeze and service improvements on menu for school dinners
School meal prices in Aberdeen for the coming academic year will be frozen at 2013/14 levels.
Efficiencies and new initiatives promoted and supported by City Council catering staff have allowed prices to be pegged while at the same time the service is being improved and modernised still further.
New developments in school catering include
stringent waste management, with staff now weighing and recording what's thrown away at the end of the day in order to reduce waste, cut costs and meet food waste legislation;
portion control in line with the national Healthy Eating Policy, to address wastage, tackle obesity, and ensure children receive a balanced nutritional meal in the right quantity;
re-launching free fruit for Primary 1 and Primary 2/3 composite classes, with a choice of five fruits served prepared and ready to eat, to encourage increased uptake and reduce the wastage which occurred when fruit was served whole and unpeeled;
new menu designs to make them brighter and easier to understand, with extra information for children and parents;
new seasonal menus for autumn/winter and spring/summer based on popular dishes citywide, which have boosted meal uptake;
theme days, where the cooks-in-charge and catering staff work over and above their normal duties promote them with the support of the head teacher and the school;
investment in new catering equipment, especially in modern combi ovens which are more efficient and produce a better quality end product;
working with suppliers and staff to pinpoint tasty new products and recipes that meet nutritional guidelines;
new ways of working for staff, in consultation with them and their trade unions, to ensure efficiency and productivity.
Cashless catering, meantime, is being successful piloted at Airyhall Primary and will be introduced into Tullos Primary next term, with a view to rolling it out city-wide. The system allows primary school youngsters to choose their lunch from a menu which they can call up on the classroom electronic white board in the morning. They are then issued with a coloured band matching them to their chosen meal, which is then cooked to order and served when they hand over the band at lunchtime. Parents can also now pay online for their children's meals.
Primary school meals in Aberdeen are also set to be put forward for an initial Bronze Award in the Food For Life Catering Mark accreditation scheme run by the respected Soil Association, which campaigns for planet-friendly food and farming. The programme encourages caterers across all sectors to ensure what they serve is fresh, sustainably produced and the product of high animal welfare standards.
Aberdeen City Council leader Councillor Jenny Laing said: "School meals in Aberdeen were already of the highest quality but these new initiatives and improvements are taking them to an even higher level.
"Parents can be confident that we are serving up top-class nourishing meals which the children really want to eat, and we are achieving this so efficiently that we have been able to freeze the prices.
"We are increasing uptake, reducing waste, addressing obesity, and making sure our payment systems move with the times. I am really proud of what staff have achieved for the benefit of the Council and, importantly, for our young customers."
A two-course meal costs £2.10 in city primary schools. In secondary schools, where space allows, cafeteria services are on offer with a wide range of meals and snacks which meet nutritional requirements. A traditional school meal is always available in secondary schools and costs £2.35. Aberdeen City Council is committed to meet the Nutritional standards set by the Scottish Government, with school lunches designed to ensure they provide a third of the daily nutritional needs of primary and secondary school pupils.