Friday, 13 June 2014

Not ready for UIFSM in September? Don’t panic!

There are various reasons why some schools might not be ready to hit the ground running with Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM) in September.

It could be that you’re struggling with budgets, logistics, the timeframe or are just unsure where to start. I know that hold-ups in some schools are also being caused by factors such as building work timescales, uncertainty over the best solution, or the desire to see exactly how school meal take-up is affected in September before making a final decision.

If you’re struggling with the introduction of UIFSM and implementing the School Food Plan, there are a number of sources of help, advice and guidance out there which you might find useful. Here are my top picks:

Department of Education – This document from the Department of Education offers official advice and information on the introduction of Universal Infant Free School Meals.

The School Food Plan – If you haven’t read it yet, this is where you can download and read the School Food Plan it its entirety. This explains all the new school food guidelines, ideas on implementing them, and the reasoning behind the changes. Or, if you just want a quick overview, there’s also a great 5-minute summary too!

UIFSM Toolkit – This is a great step-by-step guide to implementing UIFSM, and helps guide you through the process with practical advice and suggestions.

What Works Well – Here you can watch videos, read real-life case studies and get tips on tried and tested ideas to implement a successful school food scheme.

Children’s Food Trust – The Children’s Food Trust is running a free advice service to help schools with any questions or problems that might arise when sorting out their school meals service. They have a helpline that you can call and they’ll help answer your questions and point you towards further support.

Small Schools Taskforce – The School Food Plan has put this taskforce together specifically to help small or rural schools who might face additional challenges when implementing UIFSM and the School Food Plan. Incidentally, my colleague Ed Lyons and I are both members of this taskforce, as PKL can offer expertise in this area!

UIFSM FAQs – The Children’s Food Trust has put together a really useful set of FAQs which might help answer some of your questions about UIFSM.

PKL Temporary Kitchens for SchoolsWhatever the reason, if your school isn’t going to be ready to provide UIFSM in September, help is also on hand in the form of our temporary kitchens and catering equipment hire, which can provide an excellent solution until your permanent facilities are in place.

Hiring a temporary kitchen is a quick and easy way to provide a school meals service instantly, and we’ve had clients who’ve had temporary kitchens at their schools from a few days up to several years! Our temporary kitchens can be designed specifically to suit your menu and the number of meals you’ll be serving, so they represent a fast, sensible solution which won’t require you to compromise on your menu, food quality or the kitchen environment itself.

PKL Temporary School KitchensFor smaller requirements, you can also hire items of catering equipment to enable you to set up a temporary kitchen facility in an existing building, utilising items such as oven ranges, combination ovens and servery units.

Alternatively, if you already have a school kitchen but are struggling with old or unsuitable catering equipment, our KitchenFM for Schools option enables schools to contract hire their entire catering equipment estate from us for a fixed monthly fee, meaning the equipment is our responsibility to maintain, and you can swap items in or out as your menu changes.

PKL KitchenPods for SchoolsAnd of course, if you’re still looking for a permanent kitchen option, our permanent modular KitchenPods are a hugely popular option for schools as they can be ready in a matter of weeks and offer flexible procurement options for where budgets are tricky.

I do hope this blog post has helped give you some ideas if you were worried about getting your school ready in time for September – please do get in touch with us to see if our school kitchen solutions can help make your transition to UIFSM easier.