'Soggy chips' warning as Edinburgh primary pupils want lunches cooked at their school

Edinburgh City Chambers
Edinburgh City Chambers
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Youngsters have appealed to councillors to allow their dinners to be cooked at their school to stop them being served “soggy chips”.

Councillors on Edinburgh City Council’s education, children and families committee agreed to consider allocating around £50,000 to fund a pilot hybrid kitchen model at Towerbank Primary School in budget proposals next year.

Officials estimate that the hybrid model, where some food will be prepared on site, will cost £50,000 to set up and annual revenue costs of £15,000 to cover staffing. A previous proposal for a full kitchen was discounted after it was revealed it would need to be built in the existing school playground and cost around £250,000 with £35,000 annual running costs.

The council’s head of property and facilities management, Peter Watton, told councillors that the £50,000 costs for the hybrid model was “an estimate”.

He added: “I personally believe it is a light estimate. It also includes the potential to put in the ramp, which is not straightforward.

“We’re quite comfortable that the figure as an estimate is accurate in terms of equipment, a ramp and indeed changes to water, electricity and other services needed to put in cooking facilities.”

Towerbank pupils pleaded with councillors to help them improve facilities.

P7 pupil Eilidh Jays said: “We don’t have a kitchen at Towerbank so our food is cooked and delivered to us. Meals were often cold, vegetables were overcooked, portions were too big, children ate bread a desert and no main meal and loads of food went into the bin.

“We want to cook some of the food that doesn’t travel well at the school."

Layla Koita said that quality of food has improved but there are still issues.

She added: “Working with council officers, things soon improved. Food was the right temperature, portions got smaller, bread and desserts were extras, not a meal, and the food generally looked more appetising.

“But there were still issues. Some food does not travel well – chips are still soggy, vegetables overcooked and losing their vitamins, pasta and wraps are still stodgy. Food is still ending up in the bin and some children and still left hungry.”

Towerbank parent, Andrea Barlow, told the committee that a lot of waste is thrown away in the current arrangement.

She said: “I would say that we are consistently wasting about six to eight bin bags full of food and plastic everyday.”

School dinners were being prepared at Portobello high School and transferred to Towerbank – but the preparation for the primary school is now taking place at St John’s primary.

The council’s catering manager, Christopher Ross, said: “In a three-month monitoring period, 250,000 meals are transported across the city. Towerbank makes up roughly five per cent of that.

“Towerbank had significant investment in dining facilities with the extension that was put on. There are some schools, Granton for example, where numbers are very similar but the conditions are not as good as Towerbank.”

He added: “We anticipate to see an improvement in quality because it will be a primary school cooking for a primary school as opposed to a high school adapting a menu to fit for a primary school.

“Our field supervisor will be conducting weekly quality checks along with a new supervisor that we have appointed to oversee quality.”

It will be up to individual political group whether or not to fund the pilot in next year’s budget.

READ MORE: Councillors could be forced to pay for own lunches at Edinburgh City Chambers as cash-strapped council battles budget cuts