Some Cardiff schools are not cooking pupils hot meals due to social distancing
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
Some schools in Cardiff are not cooking hot meals for pupils due to social distancing restrictions.
Eight schools in the city are not providing any meals, while two are offering “limited provision” of sandwiches for pupils to eat in classrooms.
Staff absences were given as one reason for the lack of school meals, as well as dining halls being too small for “effective social distancing”.
It’s unclear how long these schools have not been providing meals for pupils, or when they will start cooking hot lunches again.
Councillor Sarah Merry, cabinet member for education, said: “Our aim is for every child to have access to a hot lunch. Our school meals service, though, is continuing to face ongoing challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic. That’s in terms of staffing absences and the impact on suppliers and contractors.
“The other issue is that some schools also have small dining halls, which can’t support effective social distancing or would require maintenance work to be taken.
“In schools where there is no meal provision, all pupils eligible for free school meals will continue to receive supermarket vouchers. Where there is limited provision, that’s in the form of sandwiches and grab bags. Some are taking those meals in classrooms, for example.”
The schools not providing meals are Birchgrove, Bryn Deri, Lansdowne, Meadowbank, Millbank, Rhiwbina, Roath Park and St Teilo’s. Limited provision is offered at Llanedeyrn and Marlborough.
Cllr Merry was answering a question from Cllr Jayne Cowan during a full Cardiff council meeting on January 27.
Cllr Cowan said: “How long do you think is too long for schools not to provide a hot meal? For some pupils, this is their only hot meal of the day.”
Cllr Merry added she didn’t have details of how long these schools had not been providing meals, but said a review would be taking place in future.
Last November, the Welsh Government announced all children aged four to 11 would get access to free school meals within the next three years, as part of the cooperation agreement with Plaid Cymru and their “shared ambition no child should go hungry”.
While schools were closed during lockdown last year, parents and carers of children eligible for free school meals received vouchers to spend on food in supermarkets.
It was revealed Cardiff council gave £15 of vouchers per week while elsewhere in Wales, parents and carers received vouchers for £19.50. The council later reimbursed parents for the difference.
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