Getting good food out to all the kids

24/07/2009 - 00:00
Nottinghamshire County Council Caterer was the first Local Authority caterer in the country to provide all its schools – primary and secondary - with Food for Life Silver food.

Nottinghamshire County Council Caterer was the first Local Authority caterer in the country to provide all its schools – primary and secondary - with Food for Life Silver food. This means that every day 30,000 children in Nottinghamshire eat school meals that are at least 75% freshly prepared with a range of local and organic ingredients. All chicken, eggs and pork are Freedom Food or free-range and no fish from unsustainable sources is served. Katie Dawes from Nottinghamshire County Council Caterer explains more: What made you join Food for Life? At Nottinghamshire County Council we started making changes to our school meal service back in 2003 with the appointment of a dedicated Food Development Officer. They were tasked with overhauling the service for both primary and secondary schools. By the end of 2006 the School Meals Service had seen a major turnaround. New equipment had been installed in kitchens so that meals could be prepared fresh onsite, giving us tighter control over the ingredients, with locally sourced meat and fresh local vegetables. Levels of salt, fat and sugars had also been reduced along with unnecessary additives to create healthier, balanced meals. We joined the Food for Life Partnership in 2008 as we saw it as an excellent opportunity provide demonstrable evidence of the work we had achieved in the food quality and provenance area. What has been your process for meeting the criteria e.g. step by step? In order to make any necessary changes we needed to work closely with our suppliers to see if we could meet the standards. Our first port of call was to meet with our meat supplier, Mike Maloney's Ltd. They source as much local produce as possible meaning that for our school dinners we use local produce such as lamb from the Peak District, beef which has been grazing on the banks of the River Trent, and game from Sherwood Forest. This was followed by meetings with all our other suppliers and producers to ensure they could supply us with products that met the standards, such as MSC fish. What successes have you had from being involved with Food for Life? While this project has been a great challenge for the Catering Team, the benefits we have seen so far have been outstanding. The quality of the meals we are now serving in schools is the best they have ever been. By moving away from the norm of bulk buying and adopting a 'local' theme on all aspects of our menu we have been able to improve our meal service and achieve the Food for Life Mark. Our pupils have started to develop a keen interest in healthy eating. We have also been able to develop their business knowledge through buying back any produce they supply to the school kitchen. What problems have you encountered and how have you overcome them? In sourcing local producers we had to make sure that they were established enough to be able to maintain the demand that providing over 30,000 school meals a day would bring. This meant careful planning and consideration had to go into supply and delivery and the possibility of linking our smaller local producers with our bigger established contacts. We therefore had to try and encourage collaborative working with some of our local distributors. The majority of our local producers do not deliver on a large scale so we have had to work hard on promoting what we were trying to achieve to our distributors, and encourage them to change their products to one of our choice, such as milk from a local dairy and free range eggs. What costs have been involved in making changes to meet the Food for Life criteria? Other than an increase in management hours to support the engagement of schools, we have not seen any dramatic costs involved with meeting the Food for Life criteria. We found that by contacting local producers directly and setting up direct links we have actually been able to cut out the middle man and save money. This has enabled us to spend more on other quality products such as local game from Sherwo

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