Catering and Free School Meals

The College provides its own catering according to the policy guidelines agreed by the Governing Body. The emphasis is on healthy eating and an attractive range of good food is available every day, which is sourced locally, when possible.

New school food and drink standards

The government introduced new, higher standards for school meals, which became effective from September 2006. School meals needed to change because of worries that children were eating too much fat, salt and sugar, with its consequent health problems.

Schools now offer healthier choices at lunchtime. The new standards mean more fresh food, including fruit and vegetables, and less deep-fried food and manufactured meat products. Sweets, chocolates and crisps are not allowed.

From September 2007, all other school food and drink (i.e. food and drink available during break times) had to meet the new standards.

Although at Dawlish Community College, we had already previously gone some way to providing healthier alternatives, we have now met these new standards, by amending our menus and making changes to the types of food available.

From September 2009, we have to comply with the third stage of standards, which, amongst other requirements, includes having every item of food and drink nutritionally analysed to provide evidence that it is suitable for consumption by our students.

The new nutrient-based standards were developed following research showing children were not making healthy choices at lunchtime and that the school meals, on average, did not meet nutritional needs.

There are 14 nutrient-based standards. These aim of these nutrient-based standards are to help reduce intakes of salt, fat and sugar, help increase intakes of fruit, vegetables and oily fish and to increase the vitamin and mineral content of meals.

We naturally hope that you will allow your child/children to experience our healthy eating options, but if you choose to provide a packed lunch, please think carefully about what goes into it.

At Dawlish Community College, healthy eating plays an important role in our work with the children and, as parent/carers, your support can help your child to be excited and interested in the menus on offer. We ask you to be even more proactive by talking to your children about healthy eating at other times of the day as well as at lunch, so that the college and parents are working together towards building a healthy future for them.

The School Food Trust is an independent organisation that has been set up to help parents, children and schools with the introduction of the new food standards. A copy of the standards and guidance can also be found at School food standards – Department of Education.

Free school meals

Parents do not have to pay for school meals if they receive any of the following:

  • Income Support (IS)
  • Employment Support Allowance (Income Related)
  • Child Tax Credit without Working Tax Credit with an annual taxable income (as assessed by HMRC) of less than £16,190 (as of April 2012)
  • Income-based Job Seekers Allowance (IBJSA)
  • Guaranteed Element of State Pension Credit
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

Children who receive Income Support or income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance in their own right qualify as well.

Those students who are eligible for free school meals will have a biometric finger recognition account as issued to all other students. This ensures that no other student is aware of a student’s free school meal entitlement. The account is automatically charged each day with the value of a school meal (£2.20 from April 2012). Students may also add their own money on the card, which is held in a separate electronic “purse”, but the free school meal allowance will always be used up first.

Therefore, since those students who have free school meals are completely anonymous, we urge all eligible parents/carers to make an application.

Applying for free school meals

Parents and carers applying for a free school meal no longer need, in most cases, to provide paper proof of qualifying benefit, because Devon County Council now checks eligibility through a Department for Education hub facility for all applications.

In order to perform a hub check all Devon County Council need is:

  • the parent’s/carer’s surname
  • the parent’s/carer’s date of birth
  • the parent’s/carer’s National Insurance number

Applications for free school meals can be submitted online via the Devon County Council website, by telephoning Devon County Council on 0845 155 1019 or using an official application form, BR35 (1), copies of which can be obtained from the reception office at the college or downloaded from the Devon County Council website.

Please note that you no longer need to reapply for free school meals twice yearly; once Devon County Council have your details on record they will do regular checks to see whether you are still entitled.

However, in order to perform these checks Devon County Council need up to date details. It is therefore essential for you to inform Devon County Council of any changes of benefit and name or address of the person, in your household, receiving the qualifying benefit. Incorrect details may lead Devon County Council to believe that you are no longer entitled to free school meals!

Biometric Cashless Catering System

The Smartcard system has now been replaced by a biometric (finger recognition) system.

The main advantages of this system are:

  • increased security for students, avoiding the need to carry cash
  • reducing the possibility of bullying, because students do not carry cash and only the student may access their account by using their fore-finger
  • students who are in receipt of free school meals are not identifiable
  • reduced administration costs when parents pay on-line or with cheques in amounts equal to at least one week’s meals
  • fingers cannot be mislaid, lost, damaged, or left at home, as was the case with smartcards
  • parents can be sure that their children are only spending their dinner money in our dining hall, where healthier food options are available
  • removing the need for parents to have to remember to find the dinner money on a daily basis

Parents put credit onto students’ accounts by paying on-line, using credit or debit cards, or by sending in cash or cheques with students on a weekly, monthly or termly basis. For reasons of security and reduced administration, on-line payments and cheques are preferred.

If a student forgets to bring in cash, a cheque and doesn’t have any credit on their account, they can obtain an emergency Catering Lunch Voucher in order to be able to buy food for the day, but they must repay the cash on the next school-day.

Online resources

School Food Trust – Eat Better Do Better
DCSF/DH Food in Schools
Nutrition and school lunches – Directgov
School packed lunches – Live Well – NHS Choices
Free School Meals – Devon County Council