A MUCH-loved school dinner lady has retired after dishing out a staggering 3.5million meals to pupils and staff across 35 years.

Diana Light joined The Arnewood School in New Milton as a replacement for her mother-in-law Joan Light who worked there for 27 years.

Ms Light said: “I can’t believe it is coming to an end after all this time.

“I have seen many faces come and go over the years, but we have been lucky in the canteen and have always had a good team, I am really going to miss it.”

Every day since Ms Light joined the school, the catering team has provided an average of 500 meals a day.

At a leaving presentation, headteacher Nigel Presnell gave Ms Light a gift and a bunch of flowers with four out of five of her grandchildren, who all attend the school, also on hand to assist.

Co-workers and family members also turned out to surprise to bid Ms Light farewell.

Mr Presnell said: “We shall all miss Mrs Light, she has been one of Arnewood’s constants - a steadfast and loyal colleague, who has literally catered for generations of students in the past 35 years.

“We all wish her a long, happy and healthy retirement on hanging up her apron and ladle.

“The family has been in charge of school dinners for more than 60 years – serving up between them six or seven million meals.

“It is quite a record and means there are few locals who have gone through the school and haven’t been served by a Light.”

During her retirement, Ms Light said she is planning to travel, spend more time in her garden and buy a puppy.