Sheffield school dinners revamp a hit with older pupils

Taste test: The new menus were tried on pupils at Bradfield Dungworth Primary School, pictured here, before being rolled out.
Taste test: The new menus were tried on pupils at Bradfield Dungworth Primary School, pictured here, before being rolled out.

NEW lunchtime menus are proving to be a big hit in Sheffield secondary schools - but primary pupils remain unconvinced by the changes.

A new contractor Taylor Shaw took over the provision of meals in three quarters of the city’s schools last September, promising freshly prepared lunches made from high quality ingredients.

Their target is to reverse a steady decline in sales which had set in across the city over the last few years, as more pupils opted for packed lunches or takeaways.

But figures obtained by The Star show the impact of the changes has so far been mixed.

In the first three months of the autumn term, take up in the six secondaries supplied by Taylor Shaw rose by an average of more than 11 percentage points.

Over that period, almost 40 per cent of youngsters were eating a hot school lunch, compared with 28.6 per cent in 2010.

And the trend is improving - by the end of November take- up had risen to 42 per cent, up by more than 13 percentage points on the previous year.

But pupils in the 116 primary schools served by Taylor Shaw have been slower to respond to the changes.

Sales were actually down during September, October and November, by as much as four per cent.

December’s figures showed a slight turnaround, however, with 41.5 per cent of children eating a school dinner, up by one percentage point.

The contractor is aiming to boost take-up further by working closely with individual schools, tailoring menus to reflect pupils likes and dislikes.

Leah Barratt, manager of the council’s School Food Service, said year-on-year sales had improved.

“The uptake at our secondary schools has been very encouraging and a lot of this we are sure is a result of our new contractor,” she said.

“Pupils want the wholesome, locally-produced food which Taylor Shaw is giving them and which is designed to keep their interest in buying food in school.

“The company is actively listening to students in developing the provision, including more food offers and branding and re-naming dining areas.”

* TAKE-up of school meals among Sheffield’s primary pupils has been affected by a 6p per day price rise which had been introduced in September, council chiefs believe.

Leah Barratt, manager of the council’s School Food Service, said: “A new supplier and new menus had an effect as Taylor Shaw were an unknown factor when parents were making decisions at the beginning of term.

“However, since September, numbers have increased each month and we are confident of increasing this take up in the coming year as parents see the benefits of freshly prepared food and the ability to influence menus at their child’s school.”

Coun Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for children and young people, said school meals needed to meet a growing child’s needs.

“Not only in terms of health and well being, but also so pupils perform well in the afternoon,” she said. “Hungry children don’t learn.

“Our Schools Meals Service works in partnership with with schools and contractors to ensure the meals are nutritious, tasty with choice and value for money.”