The pledge to provide all pupils in Scotland with a free school meal by August 2022 has been delayed.
Pupils in P5 are now entitled to a free school meal; however, P6 and P7s will have to wait even longer for their eligibility.
Older primary pupils were supposed to receive free school lunches by the start of the new school year in August but this commitment has been relaxed.
The budget that sets out the Scottish Government’s proposed spending for 2022/23 says free lunches will now be given to all primary school children “later in the parliamentary term”.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have provided funding to support the expansion of free school lunches to primary four and five.
“Ministers are committed to funding the expansion of free school meals to all pupils in primary and special schools during this parliament.
“Our budget plans for 2022-23 will provide £30 million capital allocation for investment in school kitchen and dining areas to prepare for this further expansion and we will continue to work with local government partners over the next academic year.
“This is to ensure that the expansion can be delivered equitably across all schools in all areas whilst maintaining a high quality provision for pupils.
“We will also work with partners on a phased approach to delivery of a universal milk scheme in primary schools aligned to the expansion of free school meals.”
However, the plans, which were announced as part of the SNPs election manifesto, placed pressure on local authorities to meet the demand in providing every pupil with a free lunch.
Frozen meals to meet demand
Councillors in Perth and Kinross agreed to serve pupils frozen school lunches in order to rise to the August 2022 challenge.
From tomorrow, pupils in Perth and Kinross will receive their school lunches from Tay Cuisine.
Meals are prepared in a production kitchen in Dundee before they are flash-frozen and distributed to pupils, where they are then reheated and served.
The region’s Tayside counterparts in Angus and Dundee also use Tay Cuisine’s frozen meals for pupils.
Carse of Gowrie Labour councillor Alasdair Bailey has renewed calls for the frozen meals scheme to be binned now that the pressing timeline has be scaled back.
He said: “Although I voted against the proposal to move Perth and Kinross kids to factory-produced frozen meals, I worry that some of my colleagues supported it based on the apparent urgency of the need to cater to all kids by August 2022.
“Now that requirement has been removed, the case for keeping food production local in Perth and Kinross schools and protecting these skilled local jobs is even stronger that it was before.”
The frozen meal scheme was controversial with parents in Perth and Kinross when first announced.
A spokesperson for Tay Cuisine said: “The Tay Cuisine cook-freeze service has been operating successfully since January 2021 delivering nursey and primary school meals in the Angus and Dundee areas.
“Feedback has been highly encouraging and customer satisfaction is evident in the ongoing increase in the uptake of nursery and primary school meals over the past year. The service goes live in the Perth and Kinross area tomorrow.”