The task of delivering meals to pupils once schools return full time in August will be “challenging” according to the man heading up the response across Tayside.
Gary Conway, who is the facilities business manager at Tayside Contracts, is overseeing plans to ensure pupils are being fed safely once schools return, which will involve them being served a cold bagged meal instead of the usual meal options.
And although he admits the situation they are faced with has been ”challenging”, he is confident the organisation will be ready to “step up to the plate” come August.
He said: “We keep a close eye on the latest Scottish Government information and we base our work on that. It’s not the easiest situation to deal with but we’ve just had to step up to the plate and deal with it – literally.
“What’s uppermost in everybody’s mind is the safety aspect of things, so going with the cold bagged meal was the sensible option.
“It limits the interaction between pupils and staff.”
Despite hot meals for pupils being off the menu for pupils across Tayside until at least October, Tayside Contracts are keen to offer as much variety as possible to ensure pupils are still getting a choice.
Gary said: “There’s a menu being agreed by the councils and there will be different filling and bread options for the sandwiches.
“We’ve tried to make sure that the cold bagged meal is as interesting as possible for the pupils and there is a full four-week menu cycle to give choice.
“There will be a choice every day for what you want on your sandwich. There will also be salads, crusty bread and a cold pudding on the menu.”
How meal times will look come August is also dependent on the individual schools, with some schools having more pupils and space to work with than others across the Tayside region.
The facilities business manager added: “We have been discussing with the head teachers of individual schools to see what the delivery model will look like in those individual settings.
“Each school is different and has its own challenges. Whether we serve the cold bagged meals in a classroom setting or the dining hall will depend on what arrangements have been put in place in these schools.”
Whilst schools have been shut to most pupils March, catering staff have been hard at work throughout the lockdown catering for children of key workers. This, Gary added, has helped to prepare for a full return next month.
He said: “There’s been quite a number of boots on the ground within schools during the pandemic and we’ve managed to keep them all safe.
“We’ve had to make the same preparations as any other business. We’ve put up signage about many people can be in one area and we’ve disinfection the kitchens.
“But we are obviously looking at a bigger return in August so we are looking to maintain the safety measures when that comes.
“We also need to plan for the future and the plan is to move the service forward in October but a lot will depend on what we face when we get there.”
Gary also offered reassurances to staff who may be worried about any changes to their role with the new service, highlighting that they expect to serve just as many pupils as before.
He added: “As far as we are aware, we are going to be providing these meals to the same number of pupils and maybe even more than we would normally.
“I wouldn’t agree that our staff have anything to worry about, our objective is to keep our staff safe and to secure their long-term employment – Covid-19 hasn’t changed that.”