Highland Council celebrates award-winning school meals for ninth year running
2nd August 2018
Highland parents urged to take advantage of fresh, healthy, and sustainable school meals which have once again been recognised with a national award.
Despite the challenges of serving Scotland's largest council area, which includes some of the most sparsely populated areas of the UK, Highland Council is celebrating after achieving the Soil Association Scotland's Silver and Bronze Food for Life Served Here award in its primary schools and nurseries for the ninth year running.
The Food for Life Served Here award is a widely respected and independently assessed scheme, supported by the Scottish Government, which supports Local Authorities to put more local food on school dinner plates and serve healthy, sustainable meals. It recognises and rewards councils that are serving food made from fresh ingredients, free from undesirable additives and trans fats, that meets UK welfare standards, and complies with national nutrition standards.
Highland serves 10,740 a day across their 161 primary schools and nurseries. The Silver award schools and nurseries are Cradlehall, Drakies, Holm, Lochaline, Rosebank and Smithton, while all other schools and nurseries have the Bronze Award.
With menus updated every six months for seasonal variance, and regular consultation with pupils and staff to improve the food choices and recipes, the freshly-cooked, nutritionally balanced meals choices on offer include many favourites.
The Food for Life programme works with Local Authorities to get more Scottish food on plates, shortening supply chains and supporting thriving local economies. Pupils in Highland primary schools regularly enjoy:
beef, pork, lamb and venison from John M Munro, Highland Butcher, all sourced within 50 miles of Dingwall;
Highland free range eggs and Graham's Dairy organic milk; and
local fruit and vegetables from Swansons Fruit Company, Inverness, including potatoes from Nairn and cabbages from Kirkhill.
Sue Nield, Catering Services Manager with Highland Council, said, "We have always been a passionate team and we care about where our ingredients come from. The council has long supported local food and farmers markets and promoted supply opportunities to local suppliers. Everything we do is geared towards ensuring that children get fresh, local meat and vegetables which are traceable. More and more parents are interested in that, and they're confident about what we are doing."
Chair of the Highland Council’s Care, Learning and Housing Committee Councillor Andrew Baxter added his congratulations. He said, "I would like to acknowledge the excellent work our catering staff do and thank them for their hard work and dedication. I would also like to thank our teaching staff for all their work in promoting to their pupils the many benefits of eating healthy foods.
"As a parent with two primary school children I have always been a huge fan of the excellent meals that our catering service provides in our schools. The quality food they serve is carefully planned to provide the best possible nutrition. It’s important to encourage the eating of school meals from an early age to try and foster the habit of healthy eating so I would encourage parents who have children starting nursery or P1 this year to opt for school meals safe in the knowledge that your children will be eating and enjoying great food."
Magnus Swanson, owner and Managing Director at Swanson’s Fruit Company, said, "From my own farming background and contacts from working with the Potato Marketing Board, followed by 27 years in this business, we at Swanson’s are pleased to have long standing suppliers of locally grown, top quality produce from many farmers and growers throughout the Highlands and Moray. These are often in the school kitchens within one day of being picked! It is great to work with the Food for Life programme which shares our values of buying local."
Aoife Behan, Head of Food at Soil Association Scotland, said: "Huge congratulations to Highland Council on this fantastic achievement. Renewing their Food for Life Served Here award for the ninth year running is a testament to the hard work and dedication of everyone involved, from the catering staff to the Councillors. We’re delighted to celebrate Highland’s continued commitment to providing fresh and healthy school food, and their support of local producers."
The Food for Life Served Here standards are:
Meals comply with national standards or guidelines on food and nutrition
At least 75% of dishes on the menu are freshly prepared (on site or at a local hub kitchen) from unprocessed ingredients
All meat is from farms which satisfy UK animal welfare standards
No fish are served from the Marine Conservation Society ‘fish to avoid’ list
Eggs are from free range hens
No undesirable additives or artificial trans fats are used
No genetically modified ingredients are used
Free drinking water is prominently available
Menus are seasonal and in-season produce is highlighted
Information is on display about food provenance
Menus provide for all cultural and dietary needs
All suppliers have been verified to ensure they apply appropriate food safety standards
Catering staff are trained in fresh food preparation and understand how Food for Life Served Here works
Silver and Gold
The Silver and Gold standards work on a flexible points system, which rewards every penny spent on ethical, environmentally friendly and local ingredients, and recognises steps to offer healthier menus.
At Silver, at least 5% of ingredients are organic and a selection of local or UK produce is served. A number of steps are taken to make meals healthier.
At Gold, at least 15% of ingredients are organic, a significant proportion of the ingredients caterers use must be from the UK or produced locally and further steps are taken to make healthy eating easier.