With pupils returning to education last week, they have seen a number of new measures at schools which also extend to the dinner halls. One welcome change is some schools utilising the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme.

School pupils in Fife and Dundee are enjoying cut-price meals thanks to councils taking advantage of the UK Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

The local authorities have decided to implement the initiative which offers a 50% discount on food and non-alcoholic drinks up to the value of £10.

Students will enjoy the discount at all schools in the kingdom until August 31 and you can view a list of the participating schools here.

Dundee City Council announced that they were implementing the scheme from today and, working on a Monday to Wednesday rotation, city pupils will be able to buy lunches at half price on August 18, 19, 24, 25, 26 and 31.

Credit will be applied to Parent Pay accounts and reduced cost will be applied to NEC cards.

It is hoped that this will encourage pupils and parents to make further use of the meals service that is always available in schools.

Children and families service convener Councillor Stewart Hunter said: “There has been a lot of work undertaken to get our schools reopened and this initiative will help to give families a boost at this time.”

However, Perth & Kinross Council (PKC) and Angus Council will not be taking advantage of the scheme.

A PKC spokesperson said: “The Eat Out to Help Out scheme is designed to assist the retail food sector in its recovery. It has not been designed around the school meals service.

“With a currently limited lifespan for the scheme (due to finish operating at the end of August 2020), the wide-ranging changes we have had to make to our school meals services in line with national Covid-19 measures, and the further significant changes that would be required to deliver Eat Out to Help Out in schools, we have decided, through discussions with Tayside Contracts, not to take the scheme forward.”

Review

But the authority said that its stance may change if the initiative was to run beyond August.

The PKC spokesperson added: “Should the scheme be extended beyond the end of this month, we may review our position.”

However, while the pupils enjoy their half-price meals in Fife, the majority of schools in Courier Country have seen changes implemented to their lunchtime routines.

A packed dinner hall is simply impossible at the present time due to Covid-19 restrictions over social distancing.

And as a result, schools have been forced to introduce a number of changes to the lunchtime schedule.

Online payment

In Fife hot and cold school meals are available in all schools as normal and lunches can be booked and paid for online as is the usual practice. Individual schools may change their routine or timings slightly.

Packed lunches can be brought in but children are urged not share the contents with anyone else.

In secondary schools, some young people choose to leave school at lunchtime to visit local shops. They will need to remember to wear a mask, and also be aware that queues may be much longer as shops might operate a “one in one out” policy.

Secondary schools are providing more guidance on local arrangements.

School milk is also available and is booked and paid for in the usual way.

Hospitality service manager Keith Breasley said: “We are operating a reduced menu in primary schools to allow for social distancing during preparation and service and to enable food to be transported more easily around the school.

“In many cases lunch is being served in several areas or in classrooms.

“We offer each day a cold packed lunch – sandwiches, fruit, savoury item, yoghurt/dessert and drink or the equivalent with a hot main course.

“In high schools the service is more bespoke and although we are offering normal product range, most schools have asked for a reduced menu with the emphasis on prepacked meals deals – both hot and cold.”

© Shutterstock
Many pupils are taking packed lunches.

Biometrics

Angus Council uses a biometrics (finger scan) system to top up school meal accounts and pay for morning break snacks and lunches.

However, due to the pandemic, they are currently unable to use that and have asked parents, where possible to make payments using the online payment system.

The dining options available in Angus schools, where the service is provided by Tayside Contracts, have also changed.

A spokesman said: “A temporary menu has been developed for the first term and we have introduced a pre-order process for all meals. Later in the term we will be rolling out a pre-order app. More information will be shared with parents/carers about this.

“For lunches in nursery and primary we are asking that meals are pre-ordered and paid for using iPay. Those entitled to free school meals do not have to pay but should still pre-order through iPay. Please contact your school for more information.

“A vegetarian option is available on the menu every day. We can also cater for medically prescribed diets or meals for pupils with specific allergies, once we have received proof of medical diagnoses.

“We also provide facilities for children to eat packed lunches as an alternative to school dinners.”

Pupils enjoying bargain lunches as changes to school dinners are introduced due to coronavirus

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