Parents at two primary schools on the west side of Shetland have been asked to temporarily provide packed lunches for their children due to a canteen vacancy.
Shetland Island Council’s children’s services director Helen Budge confirmed that a vacant post in the kitchen at Happyhansel in Walls, which also provides meals for pupils in nearby Sandness, meant school meals were unable to be provided.
Dozens of children are affected, including 22 primary pupils in Sandness, and 58 nursery and primary combined at Happyhansel in Walls.
Ms Budge said it was a regrettable matter and she hoped it would be a “very interim measure”, and “all different avenues have been explored thoroughly” as the local authority continues efforts to fill the vacancy.
“It is not a situation we would want to see continue beyond a very minimum amount of time,” she told councillors at the start of yesterday’s meeting of the education and families committee.
She added: “It’s really disappointing and vexing for parents.”
Ms Budge said the meals were normally made at Happyhansel for both schools and then transported to Sandness.
She said: “We’ve had a resignation so we have been advertising for staff for the canteen to provide the meals, and unfortunately we’ve been unsuccessful in recruiting.”
The schools service looked at whether meals could be brought in from other schools but there were “concerns about keeping the food hot travelling that kind of distance.”
Later in the meeting, North Mainland councillor Emma Macdonald was assured that any parents whose children receive free school meals would receive a payment to cover the cost of providing a packed lunch.
Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Macdonald said: “I just wanted to make sure that people who are in receipt of free school dinners were not going to be losing out. I was reassured there wasn’t going to be a situation where people were left stuck because of this.
“I think the situation is unfortunate, but I do think the council is trying everything they can to recruit and ensure the situation is rectified as quickly as possible.
“It is unfortunate the distances involved mean we can’t deliver from another school.
“Packed lunches are not idea for everyone. If people are working they don’t always have time to make packed lunches.
“My biggest concern was that people were not going to be financially put out.”