21.10.2022 Author: Patricia Buchholz
Stuart Brereton, regional sales manager for MKN and a member of the LACA Wales committee, looks at how MKN equipment is helping to deliver free school meals for schoolchildren across the country.
All reception class children in Wales are now receiving free school meals - the start of a Welsh Government-led initiative that will eventually see all 272,000 primary age pupils get free school lunches by 2024. And we’re proud to be supporting the rollout by playing our part in the upgrade of school kitchen facilities across Wales.
The Universal Free School Meals (UFSM) rollout is a Co-operation Agreement between Plaid Cymru and the Labour Welsh Government, which is set to cost £225m over the next three years. This includes a £25m capital funding pot in 2021/22 to support kitchen and dining infrastructure upgrades and a further £35m just allocated for 2022/23.
UFSM is a significant step change in school catering. The funding is being provided to local authorities to invest in improvements to school catering facilities, including purchasing equipment, upgrading existing kitchen facilities and updating digital systems.
Without access to the flexible, innovative equipment they need to deliver quality and consistent free school meals at scale, schools will not be able to deliver UFSM effectively.
That’s why we’re working with local authorities to supply MKN equipment including the FlexiCombi combi steamer and FlexiChef – helping give school kitchens the capacity, control and innovative features they need to meet requirements, whilst still mindful of running costs in the current climate.
Judith Gregory is Education Catering Business Manager for Cardiff Council and LACA Regional Chair for Wales, responsible for school meals across Cardiff. This includes 103 primary and special schools and 12 secondary schools prepared and served by over 350 catering staff.
She told MKN: “We’re having to cater for more deliveries, greater cooking capacity and quicker turnarounds to provide more meals in the same time frame – we will soon go from around one third of primary school children taking school meals, to all primary children by 2024 following the full rollout. And this is before you add in additional challenges such as the increased cost of ingredients, with some items increasing by as much as 80%, the availability of products and increased complexities around allergen awareness. We have recognised that new combis are an essential requirement for universal free school meals and that’s why we’re using some of the funding made available in Cardiff to install MKN’s FlexiCombi Classic combi ovens. We need products that can deliver food when it’s needed, at scale. We know the quality of MKN’s equipment and we know it delivers the volume, quality and consistency we need - so it makes sense for us to install it across all kitchens.”