North Yorkshire gets silver for fresh and ethical school food

North Yorkshire County Council’s school catering service has been awarded the Soil Association’s prestigious Food for Life silver award for serving home-cooked, fresh, local and healthy foods to pupils.

North Yorkshire school meals service gets silver award for serving fresh, healthy food

The County Council’s catering team includes cooks from 330 schools in North Yorkshire and the City of York. North Yorkshire has become the largest county in the UK to win the award which recognises a commitment to serving fresh, environmentally sustainable, organic and ethical food, championing local producers and making healthy eating easy.

“We have been developing our fresh, locally procured food policy for many years, long before Jamie Oliver campaigned against turkey twizzlers,” said County Councillor Patrick Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Schools.”

“Not only is this good for children and young people who can enjoy freshly prepared, high-quality food for their school meal, but it is also good for the local economy by keeping money in the region, supporting local and British farmers and creating employment for growers and suppliers.”

Last year the County Council’s school meals service spent nearly £6m on food supporting local and regional producers to provide top-quality, fresh ingredients for the schools it supports.        

“This has been a huge group effort from all the schools and our team and we are delighted to have this award from the Soil Association,” added Cllr Mulligan. “Our food is fully traceable, produced to high welfare standards and home cooked from fresh in our kitchens, including home-baked bread. 

“Our school cooks go to huge efforts to make sure children are served high quality meals which support their health and their learning. All eggs are free range, ingredients come from local suppliers and meat can be traced back to the farm. The amount of organic produce has also increased to five per cent of all food used in schools.”

The catering service also places great importance on up-to-date training and skills throughout the careers of school catering staff, ensuring they are always abreast of the latest in food standards and safety.

To facilitate this, there are four food excellence and skills training kitchens across the county that have been in operation for over a decade.

“Working with our schools on this programme has given us the opportunity to really focus on what is important to us when delivering our service and looking after the needs of pupils. We are confident we can develop our offer even further,” said Cllr Mulligan.

Note to editors:

The Soil Association Food for Life scheme assesses seven key areas:

  • Seasonal
  • Organic
  • Sustainable
  • Free range
  • Local
  • Traceable
  • Healthy

All suppliers of food to North Yorkshire County Caterers are based in the region with the majority being family owned businesses.

Only fresh meat and poultry is used in school dinners, 60 per cent of which is sourced from within the county boundary, 90 per cent from within the region and all from the North of England. 

All the meat and poultry meets the requirement of being “home killed” and UK welfare standards. Full traceability is required of all meat products. This means we know the farms where meat and poultry has been bred and reared.

All processed meats including sausages and cooked and sliced meats are made by the supplier of fresh meat and poultry using regionally sourced products.

Half of all fruit and vegetables are also sourced from the North of England with plans to increase the percentage in coming years.

Most of the seasonal salad requirements are met by growers in the Humberside region; this includes the use of speciality growers around the Thirsk area for products as herbs and mushrooms.  

All eggs are free range and come from East Yorkshire. North Yorkshire County Caterers has received a “Good Egg Award” for its free range policy from the animal welfare charity Compassion in World Farming.

Frozen vegetables are sourced from a grower in the south of the region who not only grows the produce but also freezes it in a  freezing station on the farm.

Dairy ice cream is made by a family business based in Whitby.

The great majority of cheese is sourced from Lancashire and made with local milk.

Beef burgers, pork meatballs, pasta and yoghurt are organic.

This story was published 19 February 2018