Preparing for Universal Free School Meals

As of September 2014, all children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 will be entitled to free school meals, in a Government bid to improve academic ability and save families money. With funds available for improvements to facilities, schools must act quickly to ensure more mouths to feed doesn’t mean more hassle for catering staff.

“The government will be providing revenue funding of £450 million in 2014 to 2015 and £635 million in 2015 to 2016 to the Department for Education (DfE) to fund this commitment. This is new money into the DfE budget. It will also make £150 million of capital available to ensure that schools can build new kitchens or increase dining capacity where necessary. £70 million of this will be new money from the Treasury (HMT) and around £80 million will be from unspent DfE maintenance budgets.” - Gov.uk

“I can announce that we’re providing more than £1 billion to ensure children get a healthy meal in the middle of the day. We’re also making sure that schools are not left out of pocket by putting £150 million on the table to fund new kitchen and dining facilities where they are needed.” - Nick Clegg

With a number of suppliers who can kit out your kitchen, and assign specialist project managers to plan, design and build the ideal workspace for your higher-volume cooking and storage requirements, help is at hand. Following the launch of its dedicated Catering division, the JLA Group is one such ‘all-round’ partner that is quite literally ready to step up to the plate and help schools meet the strain placed on them by the new Government scheme – without the hassle or cost of having to outsource extra meals to outside contract caterers.

By enhancing on-site facilities, it’s possible to keep control of food quality, involve staff and pupils in menu choices and turn school mealtimes into a positive part of the school day. As Katie Horan, Catering Product Manager at JLA explains...

“Our diverse range of commercial catering equipment means we can help schools who simply need to add to their capacity or replace units that won’t be able to keep pace with the increase in demand on them. And of course, our unique Total Care package means they can do so on a monthly rental basis with inclusive 7-day breakdown cover. Where requirements are more large-scale, we can supply machines as part of a complete build project, manage kitchen refurbishements or full re-fits, and take care of everything from flooring and fabrication to commissioning, training and gas checks to ensure compliance.”

How to get top marks for nutrition, value and efficiency

The universal free school meals scheme has of course placed huge pressure on schools to deliver hot, nutritious meals to their pupils come September, with many unsure of how to go about expanding and/or improving their commercial kitchen facilities. To make sure you are ready for the rush, it’s important to find a commercial partner who can:

  • Offer a free assessment on current kitchen layout
  • Advise on new appliances required
  • Supply the robust, versatile equipment you need to increase cooking capacity
  • Offer planning, design & project management for full re-fits
  • Ensure all staff are fully prepared with upfront training
  • Enhance the quality of food you serve while saving you time
  • Provide help with securing LEA funding  

A full range of commercial and industrial kitchen equipment is available from JLA, including combi ovens, oven ranges, cooktops, fryers, dishwashers, fridges and freezers. Call for more information on 0800 591 903, or visit www.jla.com/catering

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