School meals


South Tyneside Catering Service provides lunches to pupils of all age groups in nursery, primary and secondary schools.

Our highly skilled and experienced professional cooks are committed to providing an excellent lunch every day.

They work closely with school staff to make sure that even the fussiest of eaters look forward to a great meal in school.

We provide quality, nutritious menus and a friendly professional service built on the following priorities:

  • Nutrition
  • Value
  • Flexibility
  • Reliability
  • Quality
  • Consistency
  • Commitment
  • Continuous improvement

South Tyneside Catering Services currently provides meals to schools across the borough, and in some we supply breakfast clubs, mid-morning snacks and after-school club food.

About 11,000 children per day enjoy a tasty 2 course meal at a great value price of £2.20.

The catering team works closely with schools, health professionals, nutritionists and other agencies to promote healthy eating and encourage as many parents as possible to choose great school meals for their child.

All of our recipes and products have been analysed for nutrient content, in line with the government's National Nutritional Standards for school meals.

South Tyneside Catering Services supports local business sustainability, and purchase products from local suppliers as often as possible.

Primary and special school pupils

Primary and special school pupils are offered:

  • a choice of at least two main courses and desserts
  • a wide selection of salads, vegetables, yoghurt and fresh fruit

Secondary school pupils

Secondary school pupils are provided with a multi-choice cash cafeteria style of service, with a great selection of:

  • traditional and favourite main courses
  • salads
  • pasta pots
  • sandwiches
  • wraps
  • baguettes
  • rolls
  • paninis
  • hot and cold desserts
  • beverages

Secondary school meals are priced individually and are displayed in school dining rooms.

Support for schools

We aim to support schools with healthy eating messages and enhance the school dining experience. We provide:

  • Attendance at Student Council meetings.
  • Support in developing Packed Lunch Policies and Whole School Food Policies.
  • Tasting tables to encourage children to try a wide range of foods.
  • Theme days and fun days including curriculum-linked menus. Look out for our themed day menus in 2024 in January, March, May and July.
  • Promotions and competitions.
  • School trip lunches.

Contact us

We want to hear your views of the School Catering Service.

If you have a comment about our service or would like any further information, please contact us at:

South Tyneside Council
Catering Services
Town Hall and Civic Offices
Westoe Road
NE33 2RL

Otherwise please contact the Customer Contact Centre.

The benefits of school meals

South Tyneside Council's school catering staff are highly skilled and experienced professionals who are passionate about the meals they provide.

The staff go out of their way to offer guidance on how best to choose a balanced meal every day, as well as encourage children to try new dishes.

We know how important good food is for your child. Great quality, freshly prepared food is a vital part of the school day.

Children who eat a balanced, healthy diet are more likely to be alert in class and have more energy to enjoy an active lifestyle.

Our menus have been specially designed and tested to make sure your child gets all the nutrients and vitamins they need in their lunch time meal, as well as carefully controlling the amount of fat, sugar and salt. 

Our menus feature old favourites such as chicken curry, mince and dumpling and roast meats with all the trimmings.

With each new seasonal menu cycle, we introduce new dishes so that our menus always feature exciting new tastes to tempt every child's palette.

Best possible ingredients

Great quality food as part of a balanced lunch can positively affect your child's:

  • concentration
  • mood
  • behaviour
  • health
  • growth
  • ability to learn in school

That's why a fantastic, freshly-cooked school meal is so important and why we use the best possible ingredients supplied by local and regional suppliers.

This not only reduces food miles, it also means that our school meals are consistently excellent.

Our local purchasing policy encourages more produce from small local suppliers and this helps to support our regional economy.

As well as the freshest products, we also demand high welfare standards from our suppliers:

  • All of our eggs are free range and meet RSPCA Freedom Food standards
  • All fish are Marine Stewardship Approved (MSC)
  • We buy Fairtrade products whenever we can.
  • Most meat and poultry are Red Tractor assured quality standard or similar quality mark.

All menus are subject to availability.

Free school meals

Children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 can receive free school meals, regardless of income. 

Children not in these years can also have free school meals if their parent or guardian receive any of these benefits:

  • Universal Credit, provided they have an annual net earned income not exceeding £7,400 (£616.67 per month)
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Job seeker's Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guarantee element of Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit, provided they are not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190, as assessed by HMRC
  • Working Tax Credit run-on - paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit

If you think you might be eligible for free school meals, submit a claim using the form below.

The information you provide will be used to check if you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit and, if you are on Universal Credit, that your earnings do not exceed the threshold. If you claim Universal Credit, your earnings will be assessed from up to three of your last Universal Credit assessment periods.

If you're currently claiming free school meals

The eligibility criteria for free school meals have recently changed. 

If you're currently claiming free school meals, but don't meet the new criteria above, your child will remain eligible until they finish the phase of schooling (primary or secondary) they're in on 31 March 2023.

How to apply 

You will need to apply for free school meals if you receive any of the above benefits, even if your child is in Reception, Year 1 or Year 2.

To apply: 

  1. complete the Free school meals application form
  2. include proof of benefits
  3. contact your child's school to submit your application form (if you cannot get hold of your child's school, call the Council's Customer Contact Centre on 0191 427 7000)

Paying for secondary school meals

Most secondary schools in South Tyneside operate cashless biometric fingerprint recognition payment systems for school lunches. 

Pupils and staff are invited to have their fingerprint recorded on a computer system. This means when they pay for their school lunch they press their finger against a special pad, cutting out the need to handle cash.

Parents who do not wish their child to use the biometric system should let their school know.

All pupils can access the dining facilities in school, regardless of whether they use the biometric system.

Schools that have a cashless system

Cashless systems and online payment arrangements operate at secondary schools in South Tyneside that have Council-operated catering services:

  • Hebburn Comprehensive School
  • Mortimer Community College
  • Jarrow School

Benefits of the cashless system

  • Parents can pay online or at a paypoint, cutting out the need for cash and making sure that dinner money is used for that purpose.
  • Individual reports on students' spending can be produced on request.
  • There is no cash handled at any of the tills so the speed of service is increased and queues are reduced.
  • Students eligible for free meals can be assured of anonymity.
  • An 'upper spend limit' stops all the money on a pupil's account being spent in one transaction. This will be set at £3, but may be higher or lower on request.
  • Once loaded onto your account your cash is safe.

Putting money onto your account

There are three ways to put money on your account:

  1. Pay online. This is the easiest and most convenient way. Visit your school's website for more information.
  2. Students can pay coins or notes into the Revaluation Units which are installed in the school. The Revaluation Units will normally be available between 8am and 1.45pm, but must not be used in lesson time.
  3. Students can hand in a cheque made payable to South Tyneside Council to the school catering staff before school or at morning break. Please place your cheque in an envelope with your child's name and tutor group marked on the front of the envelope and on the back of the cheque.

Paying for meals - information for students

  • Select your lunch. Then at the checkout, scan your fingerprint.
  • An assistant will then record your purchases on a special till which will amend the balance of your account.
  • You will be able to see the cost of your meal and the balance left on your account on the checkout terminal.

Free meals

The system is exactly the same for students who are eligible for a free meal.

Every day the computer will credit £2.20, the current price of a two-course meal, on each pupil's account.

We encourage students to use their full meal entitlement.

We offer a great range of meal deals for £2.20.

Pupils eligible for free school meals can put extra value onto their accounts by cash or cheque if they want to buy items over £2.20.

If the cash is not spent it will stay on the pupil's account.

Menu and price for primary and special schools

The current menu is available in primary and special schools from September 2023 to July 2024.

Please note, schools may make changes to their menu, for example where the menu is linked to the curriculum.

There are three menus that rotate on a weekly basis.

The dates and menus for each week are shown below, or you can download the school meals menu.

Week one menu and date

Week two menu and date

Week three menu and date

Week one starts at the beginning of each new term and after each school holiday, followed by week two, week three, and then returning to week one.

Primary school meal prices

A top quality, fresh and nutritious 2 course meal and drink costs £2.20 per day from September but infant meals are free.

Dinner money is collected weekly in schools on a Monday. Some schools have online lunch payment systems; please check with your child's school. Parents / carers can also pay by cheque, made payable to South Tyneside Council.

On the menu everyday

Food that is available everyday includes: 

  • Chef's choice of seasonal vegetables
  • Fresh sandwiches and wraps
  • Crispy jacket potato, and filling (Ve)
  • Salad cart
  • Fresh fruit, yoghurt and cheese with crackers offered as an alternative dessert 
  • Chilled drinking water
  • Fresh bread 

New themed day menus

Throughout the year we will be having special themed day menus, which we welcome all children to enjoy. Please check with the school for more information and the exact date.

  • January 2024 - Eco-warrior
  • March 2024 - Super heroes
  • May 2024 - Global tastes


School milk

All nursery school pupils can get free school milk until they transfer to a primary school.

All primary school children who are eligible to receive free school meals due to family income circumstances, are also entitled to free school milk.

This is only if their school subscribes to the South Tyneside School Milk Scheme.

Other primary school children

Milk is available to all other primary school children.

The price for the school year 2023 / 2024 is £9.10 per term.

More information

The milk provided is a 189 / 200ml carton of semi-skimmed per day during term time.

The charge for milk is subsidised by the European Community and the Welfare Food Reimbursement Unit.

Food allergies and special diets in schools

Food allergies amongst children are becoming more common.

It is estimated that between 5 and 8% of children in the UK have a food intolerance or allergy.

South Tyneside Council is committed to making sure that children who need a special diet can enjoy a tasty lunch every day in school.

If your child has an allergy, intolerance or requires a medically-prescribed diet

To help us provide your child with a meal service that meets their individual needs, this is the process we follow:

  1. Inform your child's school as soon as you are aware that your child has an allergy.
  2. The school will contact the Council's catering team to let them know about your child's needs.
  3. If the allergy is severe, it is likely that a dietician or school nurse will be involved in menu planning for your child, and preparing an individual Risk Assessment. A catering officer will determine whether your child's meal can be prepared on site, or whether the meal should be prepared elsewhere and delivered to your child's school. Meals will be offered when a Risk Assessment has been done, expert advice sought from medical professionals, and appropriate training delivered to catering staff. It is important to note that caterers cannot guarantee that meals are allergen-free.
  4. A meeting will be arranged for you (parent / carer), a School Cook, and a Catering Officer to discuss your child's dietary needs. If a meeting is difficult for you it may be possible to discuss your child's meals on the phone, however a meeting is recommended.
  5. Our School Cook and the kitchen team will be trained to make sure that all staff understand your child's needs. Please note that it is not always possible to offer a menu choice.
  6. We will ask your permission to keep a photo of your child discreetly behind the kitchen counter in a file, so that catering staff can recognise your child in the lunch queue.
  7. We recommend that children requiring a special diet wear a purple wrist band at lunchtimes, and at all other times when they may have food or drink in school e.g. breakfast club, after school club, school parties.

Please note that although we take great care to make sure meals are safe for those with allergies, we cannot guarantee 100% that our meals are allergen-free.

Peanuts, nuts or peanut-based products

We do not knowingly use peanuts, nuts or peanut-based products in our school meals.

Some products may be produced in a factory where nuts and peanuts are used, and therefore contamination of these products may happen.

We cannot guarantee that all products are always nut free and peanut free.

If your child needs a special diet

If your child needs a special diet, please contact us on 0191 427 7000 to discuss your child's requirements.

More information

If you would like information about the ingredients we use in our school recipes, please contact us on 0191 427 7000.

School meal job vacancies

Would you like to make a valuable contribution to children's health, working in a successful and dynamic organisation?

If so, we want to hear from you!

You don't need any experience, training is provided.

Contact us for more information on:

  • 0191 424 6709
  • 0191 424 6714
  • 0191 424 6716