MONEY to improve school kitchen facilities must be found for Worcestershire's schools to deliver the government's plans for all infants to receive a free school meal.

From September schools must offer a free lunch to all children in reception, year 1 and year 2.

However, one in three schools nationally will have to improve facilities and up to 1,700 have no kitchen facilities at all.

Worcestershire County Council could not confirm how many of the county's schools had kitchen facilities but said most used external caterers.

Questions have already been raised about whether the infrastructure is in place to deliver the school meals and one local principal has said funding issues need resolving.

Bishop Perowne Cof E Performing Arts College provides hot meals to St George's CofE primary and St Barnabas CofE primary.

Julie Farr, the school's principal, said: "We employ our own caterers and provide hot food every day and support the distribution of that food and the serving of it.

"We are going to be producing an extra 400 meals a day based on every reception to year two child in the two schools we currently supply taking it up.

"There are challenges of a practical nature.

"One of our schools will need to provide a hot counter.

"In order to produce the extra 400 meals we need to buy a new £14,000 oven.

"We want to continue to supply the meals to primary school pupils but there has to be recognition from Worcestershire county council and government that schools do need funding to do this and the issue of funding is unresolved.

"There is no doubt good nutrition affects learning in a very positive way but the issue about funding for basic equipment to primary schools and secondary schools who are providing meals needs to be resolved."

A council spokesman said: "Currently school meals throughout the county are provided through a mix which includes schools who have their own kitchens, schools who have meals provided via an external catering company and schools which receive hot meals via a neighbouring school."

He said all county schools had been asked to explain how they would deliver the meals and whether they wanted to bid for capital money to improve kitchens and dining facilities with the council currently assessing these bids.

He added: "The majority of schools are requesting some additional equipment to support them.

"Very few have considered a complete or partial refurbishment of a kitchen facility but rather improvements to existing equipment in order to receive meals from an external caterer."

The Government is providing £150 million to upgrade kitchens and dining facilities plus £22.5m for smaller schools to provide meals.