School lunches have the recipe for success with a massive 2.4million meals being served up this year.
A record number of primary youngsters in Sunderland are eating a hot meal at lunchtime, 145,000 meals up on the last school year.
Since the introduction of universal free school meals in September 2014 for children in reception and infants, an average of 13,261 meals are served each day, an increase of 1,600 on previous figures.
The local authority has invested £3.7million over the last 10 years to provide new kitchen equipment, and dining facilities across a number of schools to cater for the demand.
One of the schools to benefit was Bernard Gilpin Primary School in Houghton, which previously had to have school meals transported in from another school kitchen.
Headteacher Andrew Bainbridge said: “We are absolutely delighted with our new kitchen.
“It’s had a dramatic impact on the quality of food and helped boost our meal numbers, which ties in with our whole school approach to the promotion of healthy eating and healthier lifestyle choices to our children.
“It also means we are able to provide catering to community groups that access the school.”
Similar kitchen investment plans are also in place for John F Kennedy Primary School and Grindon Infant School. Sunderland City Council Portfolio Holder for City Services, Councillor Michael Mordey, said: “The big increase in the number of children and young people eating school dinners is testament to the hard work and enthusiasm of our school cooks.
“As well as significant previous investment in Sunderland, which meant we were already prepared for implementing the free school meal initiative.
“We hope that the fact that the price of a school meal for children of nursery age and years 3, 4, 5 and 6 will remain at £1.90 for the third-successive year – one of the lowest in the country – will encourage even more families to sign up their children for school meals.”