Axing kitchens to help school budgets leaves a bitter taste

PRIMARY school kitchens are being axed to make up a shortfall in council budgets.

Six schools will no longer cook meals for children on site, but will bring them in ready-made from neighbouring primaries.

The move is to help make savings of around 500,000 in school budgets, but it has provoked fury among kitchen staff and parents, with hundreds of people in Kirkliston signing a petition against the cuts.

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The primary school is one of those which will lose its kitchen in June, in what the city council has said is a "temporary move".

Juniper Green Primary School and Hermitage Park Primary School will close their kitchens on June 2, while the kitchen at Prestonfield Primary School will shut down seven days later.

Lismore and Bonnington primaries, which are both facing the council's new school closure hit-list, will lose their catering facilities on June 16.

Pupils' hot meals will be prepared in neighbouring schools, and transported in insulated boxes, with catering staff re-deployed in other kitchens.

City education leader Councillor Marilyne MacLaren said there had been a fall in demand for meals over the last few years.

She said: "These kitchens will be mothballed for up to a year while we monitor the uptake of schools meals.

"The current trend shows numbers are now starting to increase and I hope that if there is sufficient demand this will allow us to reopen these kitchens in the future.

"I am confident that pupils will still be served a high standard of healthy meals which will be prepared in a nearby school.

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"The fall in demand is a national problem and we are in the process of setting up a working group to address the issue in Edinburgh."

Many parents and staff are unhappy about the closures, and say children will lose out on healthy school meals.

Grace Walker, assistant cook at Kirkliston, has already collected hundreds of signatures on a petition to keep the kitchen open.

She said: "Nobody is happy about this. The meals are very popular with staff and children. We must supply about 100 a day. Everything is cooked from scratch, and we supply two other schools.

"We've increased the amount of fruit and vegetables the children eat over the last few years. We're now going to have to change to transporting meals in, but they don't transport as well. This doesn't make sense, especially as Kirkliston is expanding."

Four city nurseries – Children's House in Craigmillar, the Cowgate Nursery, Greengables Nursery School in Niddrie and Westfield Court Nursery – are also set to stop preparing meals on site.