Get what you want….what you really, really want from your school food

??????????????????????????????????????????????????  This week, I’m attending a fantastic workshop to launch a Food Partnership for Lambeth conference called ‘Who Feeds Lambeth?’

In this borough – the fifth most deprived in London, where around a third of children live in poverty and where children have higher than average levels of obesity – they’ve been doing lots of work on using good food in schools to support children’s health, as well as health for the wider community.

There’s a dearth of primary school places here (as there is across inner London), so schools and the council are having to do lots of thinking and planning about how they’ll meet demand in future. It also means that when it’s time to renew their school food contract, it’ll be a huge opportunity.

Reviewing your school food contract – whether it’s a local-authority-wide contract serving lots and lots of schools, or your own individual contract with a private caterer – is your chance to think big and go shopping. It’s your blank piece of paper to sketch out what you want your school food service to deliver – not just the practical elements (though they’re important), but also how you’ll want it to fit with the ethos of your school, the environment in which you want your students to eat and how your work on good food can help the wider community too – you might want to open your kitchens for community training or cooking clubs, or champion the example of good school food to promote better choices by the whole family. What do you want to do differently? What should stay the same? Is there anything new you want to try?

It’s often said of project management that if you invest the time to come up with a really clear brief, you’ll reap the rewards in the delivery. That’s why reviewing your catering service and coming up with a strong specification is so important. It’s easy to get hung up on things that you’ve always done (or always moaned about). But get talking to parents and children; give yourself some head-space to get creative; try to erase what you already know and design the service you’d want if you could wave a magic wand. If you don’t ask, you won’t get.

Looking forward to hearing views from lots of Lambeth headteachers on Wednesday!

Read more in our guide to reviewing your catering service. Get tips on running a tender using our free quick guide to retendering your catering service or talk to our experts for more detailed advice. We’re here to help.

Jeremy leads our team of experts who support schools with all aspects of catering. Email Jeremy.


Enough on your plate…


Enough on your plate…

So, how many are you spinning as a business manager?

Enough to fill your school dishwasher more than once, I’d guess – that is, if you’ve got one and it’s working ok. Because if there’s one of those plates that’s guaranteed to be a bit wobbly, I’d bet it’s your school meals service and facilities.

So many business managers tell me they’ve got concerns about parts of their service – some of you are struggling with your caterer’s management or financial planning and controls; others are finding it hard to get underneath the real costs involved for your school to ‘do’ school food better (not always as much as you might expect if you think outside the box); some of you are trying to reduce the amount of food and energy being wasted in your kitchen and dining room; others know procurement processes could be much better; others are still having sleepless nights about the finer details of your contract with your caterer.

My advice? Grab that plate and get some proper guidance on how to make it spin with ease. Because there are so many ways in which getting your school food right will make your life easier:

•    Your school will be getting more income – make the experience better for the kids, and more of them will want to eat with you
•    It’s a great advert for your school:  parents talk
•    You’ll feel more in control of the financials
•    You can cut the admin time spent on school meals
•    Your school will be more efficient – less food and fuel going to waste
•    You’ll feel confident to pass control of budgets and quality to your kitchen team
•    Lunchtime will be more organised…less supervision in the dining room means more time for other things
•    Your teachers will be teaching more focused pupils in the afternoon
•    Finally – you’ll cut the amount of litter from packed lunches

With so many plates spinning in your job – not just those in the kitchen and dining room – can you afford not to?

Jeremy heads up our team of advisors who help schools with these issues – email Jeremy. Click here to find out more about how we can help your school.