The kitchen funding challenges facing local authorities was laid further bare this week after North Yorkshire County Council revealed it is having to self-finance almost £700,000 worth of catering equipment.
North Yorkshire County Council reportedly has the largest number of small primary schools in the country, but the £1.4m capital funding it was awarded to prepare for UIFSM stretched nowhere near far enough.
The county council’s school meals service, North Yorkshire County Caterers, has had to spend more than £660,000 from its own reserves to ensure sufficient equipment is in place to cope with the free meals service.
Its cash has gone on everything from extra cutlery and hot trolleys to additional heavy duty ovens and refrigeration.
The York Press reported that because the capital funding from the government only covers the cost of building three new kitchens — and North Yorkshire had 29 schools without kitchens before the initiative began — additional capital is having to be identified from its own resources to finish the job.
Arthur Barker, North Yorkshire’s executive member for schools, said it supported the aims of the free school meals policy, but conceded it would have to dig into its “own limited capital resources in future to ensure all of our school kitchens can cope in the longer run.”
The case in North Yorkshire echoes that of the Isle of Wight Council. It revealed last month that buying catering equipment for the UIFSM school meals scheme had cost it £650,000 even though it was only awarded £226,000 in government funding.
It has had to find cash from other budgets to finance the kitchen improvements.