Frozen meals are back on the table for Perth and Kinross pupils as the cash-strapped council considers fresh proposals to close school kitchens.
Pupils may be served the pre-made meals despite the offer being vehemently rejected by parents and opposition councillors in 2019 amid concerns over job losses and food quality.
In an effort to save £426,000 councillors will be asked to approve the off-site kitchen production plan at a full council meeting on Wednesday.
Condemning the decision, Labour councillor Alasdair Bailey has recorded a video urging parents to appeal the decision with their local representatives.
A report from Sheena Devlin, executive director of education, says the council will struggle to meet the demands of the Scottish Government’s scheme which aims to provide free school meals to all primary pupils by August 2022.
Meals produced in Dundee
Pupils in P4 are eligible for the free lunch from August, while P5s will receive the offer in January 2022, before the rest of pupils have free meals from August 2022.
This means frozen meals produced by Tay Cuisine in Dundee could be handed to the region’s primary and early year’s children on a plate from the new school term.
The main meals will be flash-frozen at the industrial kitchen before being delivered across Perthshire.
Supporting elements such as vegetables would still be produced at individual schools.
School production kitchens in the region will no longer be required and trained chefs could ultimately lose their jobs if the plans are given the green light.
Council overwhelmed by demand
The Conservative-run authority says it is struggling to cope with the increasing demand for school meals as approximately 55% of the primary school roll have a free school meal each day.
This figure is expected to rise to 80% once all primary pupils are receiving a meal by the start of the 2022 school year.
Council chiefs anticipate “challenges” with the timetable, specifically with current kitchen production, which would require “significant” upgrades to accommodate the demand, according to the report.
It beggars belief that this proposal has itself been reheated and is now back on the table on Wednesday.”
Councillor Alasdair Bailey.
However the plans have been slammed by opposition councillors who are “disgusted” by the proposals.
Proposals ‘beggars belief’
Carse of Gowrie councillor Alasdair Bailey said: “This proposal to bring frozen meals across from a factory in Dundee was roundly rejected by the people and by councillors in 2019.
“It beggars belief that this proposal has itself been reheated and is now back on the table on Wednesday.
“If people want to stop this getting passed, they should contact their local councillor before Wednesday’s meeting.”
He told them to “stand up for healthy, fresh meals for our children made at their school”.
Highland Perthshire’s independent councillor Xander McDade also condemned the Conservative-run administration’s plans.
He said: “This reheated proposal for frozen school meals shows the administration has no vision for Perth and Kinross except outsourcing our jobs to Dundee.
“This proposal has already been rejected by the council once and I shall being doing everything I can to ensure it is rejected a second time.
“Our children deserve better and I would call on the Conservative administration to abandon this proposal immediately.”
A council spokesman said: “As part of the Scottish Government’s programme to extend free school meal entitlement to all primary school pupils from August 2021, the council is considering options to increase school meal production capacity in its primary schools.”