How to get FULL MARKS for your school catering operation

School Food Plan

This month, two of the biggest changes proposed by the School Food Plan come into effect – the introduction of universal free school meals for all children from reception to Year 2, and the introduction of new food-based standards.

The aim is to get at least 70% of children eating school meals, with schools taking a “whole school approach” to food, and, for the first time, free schools and academies will have to comply with the new standards.

The Country Range Group has produced a comprehensive brochure detailing everything you need to know about the new legislation, along with helpful recipes, tips and advice.

Ask your sales representative for a copy. The Department for Education is also running a support service, including a national advice line, which is open

Monday to Friday 8am-5.30pm on 0800 680 0080.

Food for Life

The Food for Life Catering Mark is open to all caterers and suppliers who have an interest in showcasing best practice and serving fresh, local, seasonal and healthy food. 

Most of the demand is currently from the school meals sector though there is also growing interest in hospitals, universities and nurseries.

The Food for Life Partnership Mark awards achievement at three levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold. For each award, there is a set of criteria centred around four areas of development:

•  Food leadership

•  Food quality

•  Provenance

•  Food education

Food culture and community involvement

Many schools claim the scheme has helped increase school meals take-up and over 4,500 schools are now using the scheme. For more information visit McCain Foods was recently approved as a member of the Food for Life (FFL) Catering Mark Supplier Scheme.

Katrina Ellis, McCain Foods product manager, said: “School food is experiencing a revolution and FFL has become the standard for school caterers to aspire to. The FFL Catering Mark is a great way of communicating to pupils and parents that school food is good, wholesome and tastes great so there is a strong demand for products that meet the standards.”

Meet children halfway

Persuading youngsters to eat healthy food is often a challenge – particularly when it comes to wholemeal bread. A solution to this is new Half & Half bread, which consists of both white and wholemeal flour without compromising on taste. Decreased bitterness and increased sweetness improve liking of bread among consumers, especially among children and young people.

Claire Mellor, Kara’s national account manager for education, said:“We approached the new product development process for theHalf & Half bread looking at consumers’ habits, and particularly those of young people, young families, health conscious individuals as well as older families. As our research reveals, there is a huge demand for similar products in retail; thus we developed new Half & Half bread, targeting primarily the demanding sector of education, since there was a gap in the market for bread produced using a mix of white and wholemeal flours. “Education is a sector that needs extra care and attention from the foodservice suppliers. We developed a product that meets all the necessary criteria for education, is a breakthrough in the industry,is tasty and will also appeal to students at all ages.”

Similarly, Pan’Artisan’s “White” Pizza Bases have been developed especially for schools with added fibre – they contain as much fibre as a wholemeal base, yet have the appearance of a white base, and are therefore more appealing to children. There is also a range of ‘Brown’ bases with 25% wholemeal.

Richard Jansen, managing director, Pan’Artisan, says: “We worked with a number of local authorities developing this range and the feedback we received was that they loved our pizza bases because it makes incorporating essential vitamins and minerals into pupils’ diets easy. But whilst caterers wanted the high fibre content, the children preferred a white base. So we created a “White” Pizza Base that has fibre content of a wholemeal base, and it’s been a huge hit with everyone.”

Ready – for action!

Buying in ready-made products and sauces is a must for many school kitchens, where time and space are at a premium. Knorr Create More concentrated sauces tick a lot of boxes for school caterers, allowing them to create a variety of dishes from just one jar, ranging from sauces, pizza toppings, soups, marinades, dips and even glazes. All school caterers need to do is add water, fresh ingredients and their own inspiration to create great tasting dishes.

James Allred, for Knorr, adds: “School cooks that want an easy solution that helps them make great tasting gravy can benefit from Knorr Gravy Granules, which comply with the Department of Health’s 2012 salt targets and are gluten free, with no added MSG. They are perfect to use in pies, casseroles and for roast dinners.”

The word on the street

Street food is undoubtedly the most dynamic and progressive food trend right now – and it is already having a ripple effect into the education sector.

According to international food and spice supplier Santa Maria, the top five most popular street food cuisines are Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Indian and British. Favourite street food dishes are sandwiches/wraps, noodles/rice pots, burgers, vegetarian and hot dogs.

Erik Brännström, Santa Maria foodservice concept development chef, has created 20 street-inspired recipes using the brand’s new World-To-Go squeezy bottles of sauce (Sweet Chili Sauce, Chipotle, Teriyaki Sauce and Bourbon BBQ Sauce) which are sure to appeal to teens.

Unilever Food Solutions have also launched Buen Provecho kits, which combine easy-to-prepare recipes, point of sale merchandise and posters, to help school caterers make the most of the growing demand for Latin American food.

James Allred, channel marketing manager, says:

“With Latin American and Mexican cuisine on the list to becoming some of the top-selling out-of-home cuisines by 2020, Buen Provecho ensures your menu is on trend, whilst also creating a healthy and exciting meal occasion.

“The Buen Provecho kits include a branded, amendable chalkboard with the headings – Wrap it, Fill it, Sauce it. It effectively puts the pupil in charge to choose their preference from a multiple number of combinations,

creating a fun and personal experience.”

Sheila Verrall catering manager at Philip Morant School and College, Colchester, says: “Strict time and cost constraints within school catering is always a challenge as we need to keep the costs down, but still make the food exciting. Students are used to eating out and we need to bring the ‘high street’ into school lunches.”

Sheila uses Stock Pastes, Powders, Marinades and Gravies from Major International to create her own version of street food. “With the emergence of street food and children becoming better travelled, we need to keep at the top of

our game with tastes from around the world. The Major Marinades provide me with everything I need to produce these kinds of menus, not only in terms of taste, but also the amazing visual point of sale material provided by Major.”