Councils across Tayside will consider a money saving plan to meet a predicted increase in demand for school dinners.
Reports going to local authority committees in Angus, Dundee and Perth and Kinross this week will propose changes to the way meals are provided, amid claims the current system is “no longer fit for purpose”.
The move is being proposed to help councils manage the Scottish Government’s policy to expand early years education provision by August 2020 including a requirement to provide a meal for children at the early learning stage.
The shake-up will mean an increase in education provision from 600 hours to 1,140 hours a year, and will bring with it the need for an additional 1.2 million meals a year across Tayside.
In response, the three councils are seeking to create an umbrella organisation called Tayside Cuisine, which will produce the meals in a “super kitchen” in Dundee, before immediately freezing them.
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Dishes will then be transported to local kitchens and heated up to the correct serving temperature.
The project also seeks to address the need for special dietary requirements by producing such meals in a dedicated kitchen area.
Council chiefs across the region hope the centralisation model will result in savings of £1.1m following investment by each of the three local authorities of £100,000.
The scheme is already in operation in Angus, where it is hoped a further 27 jobs will be created, but council bosses across the three local authorities hope that overall that figure will rise to 36.
However, resistance to the proposal was previously raised by Perth and Kinross SNP councillor Dave Doogan after it was revealed the project would mean a net job loss of 8.6 in his council area.
“This council should think very carefully before throwing people out of their jobs,” he said.
“These staff are often in rural and remote parts where opportunities for work are scarce or non-existent.”
Stewart Hunter, convener of Dundee City Council’s children and families committee said: “If it is delivered effectively then the evidence from other areas where this system is used is that just as many pupils and service users take the meals as before the change.
“Tayside Contracts plan to run tasting sessions and information programmes that demonstrate that a cook-freeze meal service will continue to deliver the tasty and nutritional meals customers currently enjoy.”