With pupils returning to education last week, they have seen a number of changes at schools which also extend to the dinner hall where measures have been taken to curb coronavirus. One welcome change is some schools utilising the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme.
School pupils in Aberdeenshire are enjoying cut-price meals thanks to the local authority taking advantage of the UK Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
The council decided to implement the initiative which offers a 50% discount on food and non-alcoholic drinks up to the value of £10.
Having begun in schools on Monday (August 17), students will enjoy the discount at all schools until August 31.
Councillor Gillian Owen, Aberdeenshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee chairwoman, said: “Many families are facing financial uncertainties due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and the impact it is having on our economy. I am therefore delighted that our schools are participating in this scheme which allows children and young people to enjoy nutritious and delicious school meals at a reduced cost.”
Committee vice-chairwoman Councillor Rosemary Bruce added: “Our school catering service pride themselves on using the best natural produce. This is the ideal opportunity for those who don’t take school meals to try them at a discounted rate for the duration of the scheme.”
In Aberdeenshire’s schools the discount is automatically applied when food options are selected. Discounts will be applied across all food and drink during the days when the scheme is in place.
However, while the pupils enjoy their half-price meals, the majority of schools have seen changes implemented to their lunchtime routines.
An Aberdeenshire Council spokesperson said: “The provision of primary school meals in will start with a tailored menu for the first two weeks of the 2020/21 term (August 12 to 21), allowing our team to plan for different scenarios as we move forward in an ever-changing environment.
“School lunch is an important social aspect for our pupils and has been sorely missed during the 20-week absence.
“Queries for dietary requirements will be managed onsite by your school catering team.”
In secondary schools, students are being encouraged to pre-order their food and use a new ordering system.
The spokesperson continued: “It is our intention to have in place by the start of the new term a new ordering system. This solution will enable pupils to pre-order their lunch and collect it from designated collection points within the school. This will allow for the controlled flow of pupils and therefore helping to alleviate queues.
“From August we are committed to providing a service and making sure the health and wellbeing of the pupils and our staff are at the front of everything we do. As this is a fluid situation, school catering will change and adapt to the guidelines as they are given by the Scottish Government and direction from the council.
“Due to current coronavirus guidelines we require your support to restrict the handling of cash in schools to reduce the transmission of coronavirus. Please can we ask all parents to register prior to the start of term to make online payments.”
During lockdown, Aberdeen City Council provided parents or guardians of pupils eligible for free school meals with supermarket vouchers so they did not have to make a journey into schools during the period of closures.
The scheme saw vouchers to the value of £25 for each child issued for a 10-day period, the value per day being higher than the current price of a school meal.
Last week beginning August 10, pupils were asked to bring packed lunches or snacks with the supermarket vouchers provided.
This week, schools in the city have a packed lunch offering with the full menu service to resume from Monday August 24. They encourage electronic payments as the default, but still accept cash payments.
Highland Council has a devolved school management of more than 200 schools across the region. Therefore, decisions on catering options are decided at a local school level.
A spokesperson said: “Our current position is we will be offering a reduced catering service until we are confident we can deliver a full menu safely.
“The Highland Council Catering Services have carried out risk assessments and measures have been put in place according to Scottish Government guidelines with the support of Environmental Health Officers and the Highland Council Health and Safety department.
“Parents and carers can access our menu options, and updates on our school catering service, by visiting the catering section on our back to school webpage.”