Belfast Telegraph

Beloved school dinner lady dishes out last meal for kids after 37 years

By Cate McCurry

She's been serving up school meals to thousands of children for 37 years.

But now dinner lady Anne Mackeral has served her last lunch and hung up her apron at a Belfast nursery.

The 68-year-old Belfast woman has been Kings Road Nursery School's dinner lady since its opening day in September 1977 and is the only original staff member.

From fish fingers and chips in the 1980s to the recent meals of chicken curries with rice and naan bread, the mother-of-four has seen a dramatic change of school dinners over the years.

She was greeted every day by 52 happy and hungry three and four-year-olds, who she said she will miss the most.

"It has been a very emotional and sad day, I really will miss the children," she said.

"My favourite part of the day would be spending time with the children and giving them their lunches, that's what I will miss most about it. That was always my highlight of the day because they are so much fun."

"When I first started the children would have been served fish fingers, beans and chips, all simple food.

"We wouldn't have pasta like we do today, or chicken curry. Everybody is now into their Chinese food, their chicken curries, naan bread and rice, and pasta bolognese.

"The variety is a lot better than it used to be, they get plenty of beef dinners and vegetables.

"In the 1970s and 1980s the food would have been very plain and it's a lot healthier today, too."

Mrs Mackeral, a grandmother of nine, admits she doesn't yet know how she will spend her retirement days. She added: "There was lots of interaction between me and the children - and because I fed them they were always excited to see me.

"I thoroughly enjoyed working there, and although it could be hard work, the kids made up for it.

"Everything worked out good, but it just felt the time had come and I had to slow down a bit."

Background

Aptly-named Anne Mackeral has been serving lunches at Kings Road Nursery School on Melfort Drive in Belfast for the last 37 years.

She has served up an estimated 234,000 nutritious dinners to 1,200 schoolchildren during her long tenure in the canteen.

The much-loved dinner lady joined the nursery on its opening day and is the only original staff member from 1977.

She is a mother-of-four and has nine grandchildren, all of whom will keep her busy during her retirement.

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