Top marks for school caterers as Barking and Dagenham Council achieve gold award

Pupils from Roding Primary School in Dagenham enjoyed a golden celebration in honour of their caterers achieving a top ‘Food for Life Served Here’ award.

The award was developed by the Soil Association to recognise positive choices in buying and serving of food that promotes healthy eating and sustainable food sourcing. Available at three levels – bronze, silver and gold – it encourages caterers to pay attention to where their ingredients come from and what their meals contain, as well as how they can contribute to healthy lifestyles.

Barking and Dagenham Catering Services provide catering for 60 schools, serving an incredible 20,000 meals every day. They are now one of nine local authorities in London to hold the prestigious Gold Food for Life Served Here standard, and serve some of the highest levels of organic produce to students.

Rich Watts, Food for Life Served Here Manager at the Soil Association, presented the award. He said: “We consume a third of our daily calories outside of the home so the choices made by caterers play an important role in maintaining healthy diets, and that’s particularly important in schools where children are learning to make those healthy food choices themselves. When you have a caterer working across such a number of sites, achieving a gold award is a fantastic achievement and the team at Barking and Dagenham have consistently demonstrated a commitment to what we consider higher standards for school meals – it’s about fresh, local, honest food and I hope achievements like this encourage more authorities to apply these standards.”

To achieve the gold award, Barking and Dagenham had to demonstrate that a significant proportion of the ingredients they use are sourced locally or from within the UK, with at least 15% certified as organic. They also had to show they are being proactive in making healthy eating choices easy in schools. These requirements were in addition to the standards needed to meet the award’s bronze and silver levels which include delivering freshly prepared meals, reducing undesirable additives and meeting animal welfare standards.

Councillor Evelyn Carpenter, Cabinet Member for Educational Attainment and School Improvement, said: “Seeing the lunch service in action at Roding Primary has been a lovely experience, and all of the pupils I spoke to told me how much they enjoy their school meals. Their enthusiasm, along with that of our catering team, is the driving force that will help us continue delivering award-winning school meals.”

The pupils of Roding celebrated the achievement with a special golden lunch with golden headgear, from top hats to party hats to Fez’s! The gold-inspired menu featured some of their favourite choices including macaroni cheese, BBQ chicken, sweetcorn, vegetable rice and ice cream roll dessert.