HEALTHY, home-cooked meals are back on the menu at a primary school after the kitchen re-opened for the first time in two years.

Haydonleigh Primary School shut its kitchen in 2005 because of the spiralling costs of buying in meals through the borough council.

But, with a grant from the Government's Jamie Oliver Fund to provide better ingredients, equipment and training for school cooks, the school decided to bring in a kitchen manager and assistant of their own.

And from yesterday, meals full of locally sourced home-cooked and organic treats will be filling young tummies on a daily basis.

The school used to serve between 70 and 100 dinners under the old regime, but now 170 pupils are signed up for this week's lunches, with high hopes that word of mouth will bring in even more young connoisseurs.

Acting headteacher Lillian Stevens said: "We spent a term deciding what to do with the money, and felt that we wanted to offer the best organic, and locally produced, home cooking.

"The school couldn't afford to keep the kitchen going with meals from the borough council.

"This is now our own project. We have created our own kitchen garden to grow vegetables, which the kitchen manager will be cooking.

"The children have been asked what they want on the menus.

"We have Year 6 munch monitors and we're going to have mystery diners to feedback on the dinners.

"We're also going to make it our own business enterprise, with the children looking into the figures from the dinners and having a say on what we can do about them."

The first day's menu included organic beef bolognaise or vegetable bolognaise, served with fusilli pasta or jacket potatoes.

There were also organic carrot and cucumber sticks on offer, with fresh fruit and low fat yoghurts among the desserts.

Although the price of meals has gone up, from £1.65 three years ago, to £1.90, Mrs Stevens feels the price reflects the better quality meals on offer and the improvements made to the kitchen.

The school's kitchen manager Karen McFadyen said that the meals were very heavily based on the Jamie Oliver recipes with added "hidden" vegetables in familiar meals.

An anticipated favourite for the pupils is her home-made pizza.

"I'm trying to make it with healthier brown flour, and there's nothing really wrong with pizza if you can do that," she said. "And I've hidden vegetables in the sauce.

"I've managed to find low fat organic beef burgers too. It's healthy but child-friendly at the same time.

"It's the pre-packaged food that you don't want to touch.

"By preparing home-made food you're already cutting a lot of fat and other things out anyway."