Sodexho has been awarded the school meals contract for Richmond upon Thames which rival Compass Group quit in June, claiming that a lack of investment had made the service commercially unviable.
The £4.7m deal, revealed in Caterer last month, covers 39 primary and special schools in the south-west London borough over four years.
Compass pulled out of its 10-year deal with Richmond after six years. The company said that although it had introduced menus that met the new school meals guidelines, it could not "continue to support the service provision in the longer term without further investment".
Although Sodexho and Richmond refused to comment, it is believed that school meals uptake had dropped to around 23% in the borough under Compass, a situation made more difficult to manage due to the fact that the schools there do not have any kitchens.
Sodexho will be targeting raising uptake to at least 30% to make the service viable, and will meet the 2008 nutrient-based standards using a mix of frozen food from Tillery Valley Foods, which it owns, and fresh vegetables.
The contract caterer aims to enthuse school children about food through a new scheme called Just Joules, which is intended to make lunchtimes fun and educational.
Jeremy Alderton, Sodexho's director of business development, said of the new menu: "There is a strong emphasis on nutrition and the lifestyle benefits of healthy eating, and there will be regular communication with pupils and parents."
By Chris Druce