FLINTSHIRE Council is gearing up to deliver more free meals to primary school pupils but has faced competition to secure additional kitchen equipment.
The council’s cabinet will receive an update on the roll-out of free school meals for Year 1 and 2 pupils which is being delivered from this month.
Universal Free Primary Free School Meals (UPFSM) is a project resulting from a co-operation agreement between Plaid Cymru and the Labour Welsh Government for all primary school children to be able to have a free school meal by 2024.
From September 2022 to February this year around 95,000 meals have already been delivered to reception aged pupils.
While Flintshire has received grant funding to enable the roll-out, it has not been the only authority in the market for new equipment as councils up and down Wales have scrambled to enhance their school kitchens and dining rooms in time to deliver the project.
There has sometimes been a near six-month wait for the equipment to be delivered by suppliers due to the increased demand.
According to the report authored by the chief officer for Streetscene: “The impact of macro environmental factors on the market, combined with the increased demand of 22 local authorities in Wales seeking to place orders for the same additional kitchen and dining room equipment at the same time, means suppliers are struggling to meet demand.
“Lead times for some equipment is up to 26 weeks from point of order and further time needs to be allowed for installation in some cases.
“This did have a significant impact on procurement, which was further compounded by the fact that the council does not have established supplier relationships with many suppliers given that school catering is not delivered by the council in-house.”
“A significant amount of work has already been completed and continues to be required to ensure that in Flintshire we have the infrastructure, equipment, resource and processes in place to support full implementation of this national policy.”
As well as equipment additional dining space, cutlery and lunchtime supervisors have also been required to deliver the project.
The report adds: “It is not just about ensuring a meal can be provided but that eligible children have access to cutlery to eat it with, a place to sit whilst eating, that schools have sufficient lunchtime supervisors for an extended period to enable all children to have a lunch sitting and that data is captured on eligibility and meal uptake.”
Cabinet members will receive the update when they meet on Tuesday (April 24).