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Education / Reduced uptake in meals at some secondaries but school food hailed as ‘good value’

A NEW standardised school meal menu introduced by the council a few years ago had an impact on uptake, a meeting heard on Monday.

Children’s services director Helen Budge said the council is continuing to work with pupils – particularly in secondaries – around encouraging school meal uptake and explaining the nutritional value behind the dishes.

The issue was brought up at a meeting of Shetland Islands Council’s education and families committee on Monday as members discussed the budget for the next financial year.

The proposed budget for 2022/23 includes anticipated reduced income of around £55,000 due to lower uptake of meals at the Anderson and Sandwick secondary schools.

But on the other hand there has been a positive shift in uptake in primary schools as a Scottish Government funded scheme to introduce free meals for younger children continues to be rolled out.

Following a question from Shetland West member Catherine Hughson, Budge conceded that the standardised menu had an impact on uptake initially because it may not have been to everyone’s tastes or expectations.

For instance the menu, which works on a four-week cycle, includes a meat free day and this did not go down well with some parents.

Hughson also raised the safety of Anderson pupils going for food at Lerwick’s supermarkets at lunchtime and crossing busy roads.

“It’s how we help them to stay in school and give them something they actually want,” she said.

But committee chairman George Smith said the charge of £2.60 for two courses for secondary pupils represented “good value” – especially compared to what some children pick up in supermarkets.