‘No plans’ for council to take over failed kosher school meals service

Kosher Kitchen Service provided school meals to Jewish schools across Barnet but closed earlier this month, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Challah bread (credit Tetiana Shyshkina via Unsplash)
credit Tetiana Shyshkina via Unsplash

Barnet Council says it has no plans to insource a school meals service that closed earlier this month, putting 40 staff at risk of redundancy.

The Kosher Kitchen Service, which was set up by the council to provide meals for Jewish schools in the borough and was later outsourced to a private firm, closed on 5th May.

Trade union branch Barnet Unison said its members were “distraught” and had no idea that their jobs were at risk, with staff given just a few days’ notice of the closure.

The union branch has called on the council to bring the service back in-house so that it can continue operating, claiming it represents another failure of the local authority’s previous outsourcing policy.

Branch secretary John Burgess said: “The ‘One Barnet’/’Easy Council’ mass outsourcing policy has failed the Kosher Kitchen Service. It has failed to ensure school meals for the children who relied on it. This is a service with a long tradition of providing kosher meals for pupils.

“Barnet Council must step up and save this service to ensure the pupils at the schools have a reliable, excellent service going forward.”

According to Barnet Unison, the service was run from a building that was purpose-built by the council and outsourced to private firm ISS in 2016. It was transferred to Signature Education during 2021/22 and then passed on to another company, London Kosher Caterer, on 1st March this year.

Barnet Unison said the reason given for issuing redundancy noticies was “insolvency”. The union branch said it had heard that many of the schools had no warning the service would close, although the council says it understands that schools have found an alternative supplier.

John said the council had stepped in to take over previous services that had run into difficulties, such as Apthorp Care Centre in Brunswick Park, which was insourced in 2019 shortly after an inspection by the watchdog Care Quality Commission rated the home ‘inadequate’.

A council spokesperson said: “The council has a contract with ISS to provide school meals within the borough. However, schools have the freedom to choose their school meal provider and some schools have chosen to employ alternative providers.

“ISS had previously provided both a kosher and kedassia service to Jewish schools in Barnet, but this service ceased when schools chose to purchase the service from an alternative provider. There are no plans to insource the provision of school meals at this time.

“The council understands that Jewish schools have been able to continue to provide kosher school lunches through an alternative supplier.”

London Kosher Caterer has been approached for comment.

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