A petition to stop the introduction of frozen meals for school pupils across Perth and Kinross has been signed by nearly 1500 people in less than 48 hours.
The Tay Cuisine initiative was voted through at this month’s budget meeting and will see school meals prepared in Dundee before being blast-frozen and delivered to lunch halls for reheating.
SNP councillor Dave Doogan began the petition to halt the plans claiming the initiative was “a job-killing proposal that puts the viability of a mega-kitchen in Dundee above the needs of kids and our local, hardworking catering staff.”
Mr Doogan argued questions surrounding the cost of new delivery vans and new drivers remained unanswered, saying proposed savings were “based on hope rather than sound judgement.”
Fifty jobs are affected by the Tay Cuisine initiative, though the council say most of those roles will be diverted to meet the demands of increased free childcare, resulting in only nine job losses.
Mr Doogan said: “It is an insult to people’s intelligence to suggest we can close down dozens of production kitchens and only lose nine jobs – we have uncovered the real figure is 50 job opportunities set to go – this is too much to take.
“Make no mistake, if this goes ahead then it will be irreversible, these kitchens will never be reopened and these jobs will never come back so we need to stop this now.”
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The petition was backed by SNP MSP John Swinney who said: “This job-killing proposal was forced through without the consultation of parents, pupils or kitchen staff.
“It is as poorly conceived as it is damaging, and I would urge all those who are opposed to this plan to sign Councillor Doogan’s petition.”
Caroline Shiers, the convener of lifelong learning at Perth and Kinross Council, said schools will continue to have a range of freshly prepared food as part of their meals service alongside the pre-prepared and cooked from frozen food.
Ms Shiers said: “It is disappointing that the opposition on Perth and Kinross Council are not looking at the opportunities that this change will provide.
“We are determined to use the move to Tay Cuisine to allow us to expand our offering and for meals to be provided to families who need them outwith the school day and also to use it as an opportunity to increase the amount of local produce used.
“We know that in other council areas where they have already made the move to this form of meal delivery they have had successful outcomes.”