MORE than half a million school meals have been eaten during the coronavirus pandemic.

The figures were revealed by Oxfordshire County Council, with the council’s catering team also delivering more than 1,000 free school meal food parcels in the last year.

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Gail Witchell, catering services lead for the county council, said: “Our staff have stepped up to the plate, rising to the challenge of working under pandemic restrictions, working through school holidays, and finding new and imaginative ways to provide both hot and cold offers that fit with each school’s arrangements.

“We have even provided lunches for schools not within our service, where they had been unable to source meals through their normal provider.

“As a service, we are passionate about providing healthy nutritious meals, and have created new menus designed specifically to meet the need of boxed meals, obviously in environmentally friendly packaging.

“They meet required school food standards’ legislation and are served in classrooms.”

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Although some of the 150-strong team have been redeployed elsewhere within the council for short periods, none have been furloughed.

The county council has been providing school meals for pupils in Oxfordshire for over 70 years.

In 2018, the service returned to an in-house operation following the collapse of Carillion.

Now operating in 60 schools, over a million meals are served a year.

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One of the latest schools in the service is The Swan School.

Parents recently toured the school and tasted the menu.

Samples included dishes from the current two-course vegetarian menu, as well as three items from a new menu which is set to be launched in September.