BFE006CHILDREN at Plymouth schools will have healthy meals made from quality ingredients, delivered by the new School Food Co-operative.

Plymouth is recognised nationally as being among the best cities in the country for healthy eating school meal plans. It was named the EDUCatering Local Authority of the Year 2013, and has also been awarded the Soil Association’s Gold Food for Life Catering Mark and the Good Egg Award.

Plymouth City Council has also worked hard to make sure that 72 per cent of schools in the city are signed up to the Healthy Child Quality Mark (HCQM), which means that most schools in Plymouth are committed to providing a healthy curriculum, including information on healthy eating and cooking.

This compares to just 40 per cent of schools which had signed up in 2012.

The Healthy Child Quality Mark programme is an evolution of the previous Healthy Schools approach, and builds on the Healthy Schools Plus initiative which was piloted in the South West.
Brad Pearce, speaking at Plymouth's Big Food Debate in June

Brad Pearce, speaking at Plymouth’s Big Food Debate in June

Brad Pearce, manager of the council’s Education Catering Service, is also heading the brand new food co-operative, working with schools to guarantee that hot, healthy lunches will be offered to children.

He said: “We think it’s really important that children are involved in how their food is prepared, so we encourage all our unit managers to become part of the school community, cooking with the children and giving their support to school events.

“We make sure that we go to new intake days, running tasters for parents, which are vital to ensure that we can promote our service.”

The new School Food Co-operative will see 65 out of the 72 schools in Plymouth owning 49 per cent of the school meals service. Plymouth is leading the way in terms of school meal programmes, and the co-operative model is a national first.

The new co-operative method allows the schools more freedom to work with local producers and provides children with much healthier options from which to choose.

The 65 schools with which the council is already working are sourcing all their food from local producers, and 86 per cent of the food served is seasonal.

All the meat used in the menus is British and sourced from Helston, Cornwall.

All the schools which have joined the Schools Food Co-operative also have a fresh salad bar where the pupils can choose their own salad and how much they want – this also limits the amount of food waste generated.

202Everything on the menu is healthy; the pupils are able to choose their own meal out of a choice of meat or vegetarian dishes, and they can also choose their vegetable dish.

A typical school menu would consist of home-made meatballs, roast gammon with roast potatoes and local vegetables, and chicken and sweetcorn pie. All the meals are prepared every morning, keeping them fresh.

Brad says: “In reality, the pupils can’t choose a bad meal.”

About 8,000 school meals a day are being made, and Brad envisages that in a few months this will rise to 12,000 meals a day.

Each school is allowed its own tweak on the menu to suit the pupils it serves. For example, College Road Primary School has designed a picture menu which shows the plates of food rather than lists them. On Mondays it also allows the children to choose what they want served that day.

Every meal is served on white plates or in bowls with proper knives and forks – making the school meal a proper occasion, as many children living in Plymouth may not have a hot meal in the evening.

Brad said: “School dinners are about more than just a healthy meal, it’s about social skills and conversation, as well as letting off steam. We want to make the lunch session more accessible to everyone.

“We are also looking to introduce an online cash payment system, which 70 per cent of the schools we work with are interested in. This will make it easier to buy school dinners in advance and allow pupils to pre-order their meals.”

Cookery classes are now on the curriculum for seven to 14-year-olds so that they learn how to prepare and make healthy dishes as well as know what makes one up.

Those 14 and upwards now have practical classes where they have to make 20 savoury dishes across the year – a huge change from ten years ago when schoolchildren didn’t do any practical cooking. Brad is keen for the schools to use their own facilities and that the staff are trained in cooking to help set this up.

“Providing a hot meal at lunchtime in schools is vital,” he said. “I have worked in schools where children were turning up to school without having breakfast.”

On Tuesdays and Thursdays schools serve organic produce like yoghurt, but all milk used daily at the 63 schools is organic. Many schools have a totally organic day once a term as a theme day.

 Brad says: “Doing it like this raises more awareness about organic produce and makes it a special day, rather than having it on the menu all the time.”

Roast dinner is always the most popular meal and all vegetables and meat are from South West suppliers.


Article from Plymouth Herald 7 September 2104
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One comment on “New Plymouth School Food Cooperative

  1. Debbie Thorpe on said:

    This is really inspiring to see. Food education is the one this I strongly believe in. As an ambassador for Food Revolution, a organisation Jamie Oliver started 3 years ago, I have been working in the local community promoting food educating and healthy eating. Making small changes, but raising awareness.

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