Contract up for grabs to provide school meals to children in West Sussex

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A multi-million pound contract to provide school meals to children in West Sussex is up for grabs.

West Sussex County Council’s agreement with current provider Chartwells will end on July 31 2016 and the procurement process for the new contract will begin soon.

The contract, which is worth £12.7million will see free and paid-for meals delivered to 218 schools across the county, including academies, nurseries and free schools.

A second contract, which currently sees catering company Easy Lunch provide hot meals to eight primary schools and one alternative provision college, is also coming to an end.

A report by Cathryn James, executive director of residents’ services, and Colin James, director of strategic planning, stated the procurement process needed to start this month to ensure new catering arrangements were in place by the start of the school year in September 2016.

One change to the current system proposed in the report was the use of online ordering to prevent over-ordering and waste.

The report stated: “If accuracy in meal ordering does not improve, this could create financial risk to school budgets which will impact on the county council.”

The council has also planned for any forthcoming reduction in school meal funding from the Government.

Until September 1 2016, the Government will fund free school meals for children aged four to seven to the tune of £8.4million under its Schools’ Food Plan.

The report stated there were “no guarantees” the funding would continue beyond that date and suggested the Government would extend the provision of free school meals to children over the age of seven.

Such a change would mean an extra 30,000 meals a day and would need an additional £13m of Government money to fund.

While the Schools’ Food Plan enjoys cross-party support, the county council has planned for the worst by asking all bidders for the contract to indicate what their price would be should funding cease or should the plan be extended to cover children over seven.

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