School meals service in Northern Ireland facing `significant challenges'
THE Education Authority has advised that the school meals service is facing "significant challenges" due to staff and food shortages.
It said reasons for the disruption included the fact that a supplier left the EA Catering service on August 21 and the "product range which this supplier provided had to be resourced."
Although new provider have been appointed it said it will take time to "place bulk orders, await delivery and distribute across the school meal kitchens."
"EA Catering continue to produce meals across all 1,163 schools through a single set menu or a choice menu.
"Due to delivery issues and needing to identify alternative products changes have been made to menus.
"Very few schools have needed to reduce their menu," it said.
The EA said it was also "currently experiencing a higher than usual absent rate for the month of September and as a result is finding staff recruitment an issue.
In a letter sent to principals, the EA also said there were issues with manufacturers "supplying our suppliers reducing their product lines and, in some cases, removing products we purchased previously".
A spokeswoman for the EA said: "All areas of the food industry are facing significant challenges at present including our own school meals catering service.
"We provide over 140,000 meals to schools every day," she said.
"A full service continues to be provided, however, in response to the current challenges the school meals service has on occasion had to provide various alternative menu choices in some schools.
"Very few schools have had to reduce their menu and our young people continue to receive a healthy and nutritious food option in school".