We asked Jake Barwood, Head Chef at Totteridge Academy, what challenges his team has overcome to keep serving hot meals, made from scratch, every school day.

Stats released by the Food Foundation show only 46% of school canteens are operating as normal, 8% are closed and 21% are only serving a small number of pupils.

With many schools unable to accommodate pupils in crowded canteens, kitchen staff are having to rethink how they do service.

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Challenge Number One: Reduce numbers.

Jake says: “Usually pupils would all come to the counter and queue up to get their food at the same time. That’s had to change.

“To cut down on the number of pupils coming for lunch at any one time, we’ve introduced two 50-minute lunch breaks – early and late. These are assigned by a timetable and change through-out the week. Year groups are now in bubbles. Each bubble gets a designated lunch slot, collection point and place to eat lunch.”

Challenge Number Two: Redesign service.

“We now have three serving areas around the canteen, called Zone A, B and C. The students queue up to receive their hot food, and then grab any drinks, sandwiches or cold snacks before getting the paying area. For each area, we have one person serving and one on the till. To limit contact, each student has a code now, this is typed into the till by the kitchen staff member and the order is processed. Each station has hand sanitiser and gloves. 

“When they have their lunch, they go to their designated zone to eat – outside in the playground, or in the hall or sports hall if they prefer. To begin with, we were serving the students outside through the windows, but the wet weather proved too difficult for us – we lost about three gazebos in one week!”

Challenge Number Three: Creating menus.

“We’ve had to rethink what we serve and how we serve it. Plates were out so we’re using biodegradable food trays now. We’ve had to think what meals will work best. Dishes like curry and rice, lasagnes, pulled beef briskets and Moroccan chicken stew are great. They’re simple to serve but also packed with veg and nutrients. We’re still doing pizzas too – they are easy to transport and you can make them healthy.”