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Flintshire Council to introduce ‘meat free’ dinner as part of school meals revamp

SCHOOLS in Flintshire will have one entirely ‘meat free’ day next year as the council continues to revamp dinner menus.

Flintshire Council’s climate change committee is to receive a report on school catering at its meeting next week.

Committee members Buckley councillors Carolyn Preece (Lab) and Dan Rose (Lab) had previously suggested mandatory plant-based meals being part of the menu and the potential for one-day a week to be vegetarian or vegan options only.

The Welsh Local Government Association is currently carrying out work towards revising the existing legal guidance on healthy eating in schools according to a report to councillors produced by the authority’s climate change programme manager.

It states that within primary schools, vegetables and fruits are separate food categories and are unrestricted.

At least one portion of vegetables/salad must be provided each day, and at least one portion of fruit, fruit salad or fruit juice must be provided each day. Meat cuts must be available on at least two days each week, and no more than two meat products each week.

In secondary schools, there must be at least two portions of vegetables/salad each day, and at least one portion of fruit, fruit salad or fruit juice per day. Meat cuts must be provided on at least three days each week and no more than two meat products available each week.

Whilst the current priority is the roll-out of universal primary free school meals, the Welsh Government is looking to establish task and finish groups in the autumn to look at food and drink standards, the whole-school approach and special diets.

The report states: “Within the last 12 months, consultation has taken place with school reps in Flintshire secondary schools, catering managers and the catering provider, regarding secondary school food menus and compliance with food regulations.

“In February, school reps (pupils) performed audits within their schools on food and drink provision. This audit reviewed a range of questions regarding menu availability, signage, range, options and canteen space.”

According to the report pupils noted a lack of promotion of vegetarian/vegan options, and that they are only available if requested in advance.

As a result of this consultation, the council’s main contractor NEWydd Catering and Cleaning has reviewed the food options within Flintshire secondary schools.

“The food menus and offering have been revamped to ensure signage and information is improved, and range and variety of options is also improved”, the report adds.

“A follow up workshop was carried out in June 2023 with the same pupils who carried out the audits, where they were able to taste test the new menu choices. Each menu includes a vegetarian option. The feedback from this workshop was very positive.”

As a result of the revamp, theme days will take place each month to promote different cuisines.

The report adds: “As part of the menu revamp, a monthly ‘Themed day’ has been added for the following academic year.

“The themed days are effectively ‘free days’ that do not need to meet the statutory guidelines as outlined above. The theme day is once a month and is the same across all schools.

“In identifying the themes for the menu, a competition to place within the schools to design their own meal option. Themes chosen included: BBQ, Independence Day, World Food Day, Mexican, Italian, Chinese.

“The theme for May 2024 is ‘Meat-free’ where there will be no meat options within the menu but a number of plant-based proteins as an alternative.”

The climate change committee will discuss the report when it meets on Wednesday (September 6).