Schools in the UK are being urged to join a national school kitchen census that has been launched to gather a comprehensive picture of the cooking infrastructure in schools.
The Children’s Food Trust wants to make sure that the nation’s school catering equipment is up to scratch to deliver on the aims of the recently-unveiled School Food Plan.
Research suggests that 73% of primary schools have full production kitchens, while 16% either have to get hot food transported from elsewhere or have only a cold food service.
The trust is working with schools whose kitchens are too small, too old or which rely on equipment which is out of date.
It says that the “vast majority” of schools it talks to have at least some issues with kitchen kit, lay-out or size.
Rob Rees, chairman of The Children’s Food Trust, said the consensus is the first step towards improving the state of school kitchens throughout the land.
He said: “We’ve worked with lots of schools over the years where catering teams are having to cope with kitchen facilities that aren’t up to the job because of their age, their size, their layout or their equipment – costing schools when it comes to time and fuel.
“These fantastic teams are always determined their facilities won’t compromise the meals on children’s plates. They make do and get on with the job, because replacing kitchens and their equipment can feel like a complicated, expensive business.
“But good kitchens are a vital part of a thriving school meals service. The School Food Plan has thrown down the gauntlet for taking school meals to the next level. But if we want every child to have a great meal at school, we need to help schools get their kitchens right – and that starts with knowing how many kitchens are in serious need of some TLC.”
Studies carried out by The Children’s Food Trust reveal that more children tend to eat school meals in areas where more schools have the kitchen facilities to offer freshly-cooked food, with improved kitchen equipment delivering financial and time savings.
Its research suggest that schools can save up to six hours of cooking time per week by switching from an older gas oven to a modern combi, while installing a dishwasher can cut the proportion of time kitchen staff spend on washing up from 21% to 7%.
Myles Bremner, director of the government’s School Food Plan, said it was backing the campaign. “We hope this campaign will encourage all schools to consider the benefits of taking a whole school approach to their food provision – and key to this is having the right facilities and skills in the kitchen,” he said.