South Gloucestershire Council was transforming school dinners long before celebrity chefs took up the cause, leading Jamie Oliver to sing its praises to the House of Commons select committee on health last month.
The chef described the council’s meals service as “incredible” and highlighted the work of Kay Knight, head of support and traded services.
So what prompted this praise?
“Rather than saying this is a school meals service, we are delivering a holistic catering service with an emphasis on good food, health and the environment, for both children and the elderly,” says Ms Knight.
School kitchens prepare welfare meals for local residents as well as their own pupils, cutting down on cost and food miles and offering far more flexibility.
“Elderly people can tell the driver who drops the food off ‘Could I have a little less gravy?’ or that they have a sore throat so would like some jelly,” adds Ms Knight.
“It’s humanising the service while making sure it is cost effective and good quality.”
All the meat and vegetables used are organic and 80% are sourced locally.
The extra cost of using local, quality ingredients is offset by bringing school and welfare catering together, reducing duplication. Profits from outside catering for local businesses and functions are reinvested back into the service.
A typical school dinner costs just 71p, while adults are charged£1.55.
The main challenge Ms Knight faced in transforming the meals service was persuading people change was possible.
But when the unitary authority pledged to allow the department to reinvest any profits back into the service, it had a dramatic effect.
“We know if we make some money it’s not taken away, so we have been able to boost the service and keep the prices down,” says Ms Knight.
Find out more:
South Gloucestershire Council - Kay Knight, head of support and traded services. Tel: 01454 863 246