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More children getting a taste for school dinners
UPTAKE of school dinners at St Swithun’s Primary School, Kennington, has soared since a new kitchen was built at the school.
About nine years ago, the school kitchen was removed to make way for a computer room.
Now that technology has become more portable, the decision was taken to convert the room back into a kitchen.
That means instead of meals being cooked elsewhere and brought to the school, they can be cooked and served on site.
Headteacher Helen Atkinson said: “The meals weren’t as good as they would have been if they had been cooked on site.
“As we are an expanding school, to meet the needs of the children and provide them with far superior meals we thought it would be much better if we could cook them on site, which is what we are now able to do.
“We are able to provide tasty and nutritional meals for all the children, while in the past we were unable to offer meals to the children in reception.”
The school uses Oxfordshire County Council's Food With Thought service, provided by Carillion, and Kim Collins has taken up post as school cook, having previously worked in the restaurant at Oxford’s County Hall.
Work to strip out the kitchen and fit it with new equipment began in July and finished in time for the new school term.
After a week of training, the first hot meals were served in the new kitchen on September 9.
A month in, the number of children taking school dinners has more than doubled from an average of 300 meals cooked off site a week to about 700 cooked and served from the new kitchen.
Mrs Atkinson said she expected that would continue to grow.
She said: “It does make dinner time feel different.
“There is much more of a family feel to it and our cook is absolutely lovely.”
And the new kitchen has already allowed the children to become directly involved in their meals.
Year 1 children harvested and weighed eight kilograms of damsons from a damson tree on the school grounds, which Mrs Collins then cooked into a damson crumble for the whole school.
Mrs Atkinson said: “There were very few food miles in that dish.
“We don’t have a vegetable patch or allotment at the moment, but we do have plans to develop something like that and it would certainly be lovely to increase opportunities for children to do gardening and grow more produce which could then be used in school dinners.”
So far school dinners have only been available for pupils, but it is planned for staff to be able to take advantage of the new facility in the coming weeks.
But Mrs Atkinson has already sampled the dishes and said: “I was very impressed, it was very tasty and fresh and very hot which was great.”
The revamp of the kitchen was funded jointly by Oxfordshire County Council and Carillion.
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