Dinner lady served more than 1.5 million meals to school children over 45 years

Barbara Harvey  (second from right) with her Warwickshire County Caterers colleagues (L-R) Rachel Brook (development manager), Lindsay Higgins, (operations manager), Gina Rudge  (catering manager).
Barbara Harvey (second from right) with her Warwickshire County Caterers colleagues (L-R) Rachel Brook (development manager), Lindsay Higgins, (operations manager), Gina Rudge (catering manager).

She helped to serve somewhere in the region of 1.7 million school dinners to children in three villages over 45 years and always worked with the motto “if you have a job to do do it properly”.

And as a result Barbara Harvey, 68, of Priors Hardwick was chosen to represent her long-time employer Warwickshire County Caterers at the Queens Garden Party at Buckingham Palace last year.

Mrs Harvey retired from her job as a food service assistant at Long Itchington Primary School on Friday last week.

She had worked for a few years at Priors Marston school before she transferred to Long Itchington in the 1970s.

In the years that followed she played an important role in providing meals to around 250 children at Long Itchington and at the nearby Napton Primary School, which does not have a kitchen.

In this time she has put out and put away dinner tables, cooked, cleaned and washed dishes all within short time frames on five days a week.

Mrs Harvey said: “I’m just a person that likes to be busy.

“The hours for the job has always been convenient for me because it’s from 11.30am to 2.30pm.

“You don’t ever stop in that time from when you first walk into that kitchen to when you’re about to go home.

“I’m the youngest of five children and I was always brought up to think that if a job had to be done it had to be done well.”

Speaking at the retirement party held for Mrs Higgins at Long Itchington Community Centre last week, Warwickshire County Caterers’ operation’s manager Lindsay Higgins said that when he colleague started working for the company in 1971 the average annual salary in England was £2,000 and school meals cost 12p per day or 60p per week.

She said that on top of serving school children Mrs Harvey had also worked for the county’s Meals on Wheels service and a luncheon club and that she served an estimated 1.7 million meals to pupils over the years.

She said: “I know a highlight for Barbara was when she represented Warwickshire County Council at the Royal Garden Party last May.”

“It is often said that catering is a funny business in which you either last a week or your entire working life and Barbara has certainly done the latter.”