Dedicated Great Yarmouth dinner lady finally hangs up apron

A DEDICATED dinner lady is set to hang up her apron for the final time after dishing up thousands of meals to generations of hungry children.

This week Margaret Breen cooked her final Christmas lunch for pupils at St Nicholas Priory Junior School in Great Yarmouth.

Mrs Breen will be taking a well- deserved retirement at the end of term after 37 years working in the school meals service.

The cook manager, from Gorleston, has to prepare up to 200 dinners every day at the school on the Market Place.

In charge of a hard-working team of three she regularly starts work in the kitchen at 6am.

The 63-year-old has seen many changes in what pupils put on their plates since she started working at the old Priory School in what is now the Priory Centre in the 1970s.

She said: “School meals are very different – the children have far better meals now than they used to. Jamie Oliver has done a good job, but we were improving the menu before his campaign started. All the food is prepared and cooked in the canteen and there is seldom anything left.”

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Mrs Breen added: “The children’s favourite meals are roast dinners – beef, lamb, pork and also pasta. Chips are only served on Fridays, desserts must have fruit ingredients and our biscuits are made with sultanas.

“The pupils tell me if there are things they would like on the menu, which I try and provide to the best of my ability.

“I love the children and don’t really want to retire – not having them around is going to hit me hard.”

A grandmother of seven, Mrs Breen is looking forward to spending more time with husband Shaun and plans to do voluntary work.

Staff and pupils showed their gratitude, presenting her with a leaving present of flowers and a sat nav after Christmas lunch was served on Wednesday.

Head teacher Mark Adams said: “Mrs Breen has done an absolutely brilliant job. The children really enjoy her meals and she has been a fantastic servant to the school.

“We made the decision many years ago, and before Jamie Oliver’s campaign, to run the school meals ourselves.

“It has been a big challenge for Mrs Breen without anyone from the local authority to support her.

“We source good local food for the menu. The children are making very healthy, nutritional choices, which has a tremendous impact on attainment and behaviour.”