The Perth and Kinross Council voted to 21 to 16 to prepare school meals off-site to be frozen then prepared inside PKC schools.
This proposal breaks the meal preparation into the ‘main element’, which could be a steak pie, prepared off-site and a ‘supporting element’ such as vegetables being prepared in school.
The proposal put forward to councillors explained: “Meals are prepared from fresh and then frozen before being prepared for service at dining centres as opposed to being prepared by production kitchens and then reheated at dining centres.”
Councillors took this decision as part of the Scottish Government-funded universal free school meals being rolled out across the country.
Officers suggested free school meals could ramp up the number of meals being made by 45%, and their report indicates that kitchen capacity could struggle to meet the demands.
Councillor Caroline Shiers, Convener of Lifelong Learning, said: “The new system will result in a consistent quality food served in all our schools, help us to meet individual pupils’ dietary needs better, wider menu choice, more local produce being used, and reduce food waste and transport costs.”
However, the council originally voted down a similar proposal in 2019 because of what the report highlights as a: “perceived reduction in food quality as a result of off-site cook freeze meal production, a net reduction on the Tayside Contracts PKC workforce, and transport of frozen meals and specialist vehicle costs.”
During the meeting, Highland Ward councillor, Xander McDade raised: “I really think we should be investing in our communities, trusting in our communities and allowing the people who know our children best to make the best decisions for them and actually tailor the menus for them.
“The curriculum for excellence was all about ensuring that we’re getting it right for every child and we can be more unique. We don’t have to have the same menu in every school, and we can have more and more trust in the people in our schools to use the apples in our garden at Logierait Primary School to create things there.
“So, I really think that this is a short-sighted decision to try and save some money and actually I think we could look at more innovative ways to save money.”
As free school meals begin to include more and more class years in Scotland, all primary fours across Perth and Kinross will be eligible for free school meals by August of this year.
Then by January of 2022, all primary fives will be included in the free school meals offering, and by August of 2022, all the remaining primary years will join them.
Although back in 2019 3000 people singed a petition calling for this decision to be made.
MP for Perth and North Perthshire, Pete Wishart, said: “It was extremely clear that people across Perth and Kinross did not favour having our school meals centralised to a frozen food facility in Dundee. Despite widespread opposition to the plans, Tory and Liberal councillors voted to steam ahead with plans.
“The voters of Perth and Kinross have long memories, and I would not relish being a Tory or Liberal candidate trying to sell their reheated plans on the doorsteps across the county ahead of the election next year. Our kids and school catering staff deserve better and I am profoundly disappointed that the Tories and Liberal groups did not have more ambitious plans for our school meal provision going forward.”