School dinners in North Yorkshire among the greenest in the country

This story was published 20 May 2022

Planet-friendly school meals have earned North Yorkshire recognition in a national award to find the greenest school menus in the UK.

Vegetarian curry with savoury rice.

Whether it’s creating plant-based versions of the latest street food trends for secondary pupils - or tasty vegetarian interpretations of primary school children’s favourite dishes - our school meals service has it covered with its planet-friendly menus.

Now the service has come second in The Green School Meal League. First place went to Waltham Forest Catering, who won a live cooking masterclass from Omari McQueen, star of CBBC ‘What’s Cooking Omari?’ for one of their schools.

The league was launched earlier this year by Meatless Farm in collaboration with Omari - the UK’s youngest vegan chef - and non-profit organisation ProVeg UK, in a bid to find the UK’s greenest school menu to inspire, educate and encourage children to eat more sustainable food. The programme also aims to make 15 million school meals meatless this year. 

We offer an array of delicious,  sustainable menu options, with a meat-free day each week, and a plant-based option three times per week - all of which  are extremely popular with the children, whether they follow a plant-based diet or not.

It is one of four special menus drawn up by the catering service each season, along with gluten-free, egg-free and milk-free menus.

North Yorkshire’ school meals development chef, Kath Breckon, said: “We have many families who are vegan or vegetarian, but more and more families are starting to eat more plant-based meals.

“It’s also about being sustainable and supporting local businesses. Our vegetables all come from local supplies and even our dry goods come from no further than Wakefield. We use the “farm to fork” approach which means we know exactly where our food has come from.”

Ms Breckon, who is a fully qualified chef, worked as a school cook for nine years before taking up her current role and has been named School Chef of the Year by school food body, LACA, as well as Educating Excellence Primary School Chef of the Year.

Our school meals catering service works closely with ProVeg UK, who help local authorities shift to healthier and more sustainable menus and often provide ideas and tips for making plant-based meals more appealing through its pioneering School Plates programme.

Ms Breckon says they carefully plan their vegetarian and plant-based menus to make sure they are varied, colourful and nutritious. Using seasonal ingredients also helps improve the nutritional content of the meals and adds colour add variety.

Dishes include veggie sausage in a homemade bun with diced potatoes and salad; cheese, spinach and potato bake; vegetable pasta Bolognese or ‘mac & cheese’ with homemade crusty bread and vegetables. 

Ms Breckon said: “We put a lot of thought into making sure our vegetarian meals are full of colour and variety.

“For our older children in secondary schools, we introduced traditional street and fusion vegetarian foods, such as onion bhaji burgers and other street foods which we make from scratch, to give our plant-based pupils that variety and the chance to follow street food trends.”

Jimmy Pierson, Director of ProVeg UK, who organised the competition, said: “We were hugely impressed by North Yorkshire's commitment to reducing their food emissions by introducing more sustainable plant-based meals, and encouraging their uptake by describing them attractively and strategically placing them on their menu to increase popularity. Through its school meals, North Yorkshire is a great example of climate leadership, and we’re delighted to be working with them.”

Our catering service, NYES Catering, serves nearly seven million meals a year to pupils in the county. All the meals are nutritionally balanced - prepared according to the national  healthy eating and catering standards - and are produced from scratch using fresh ingredients in a school kitchen each day.

We are currently running a campaign to ensure families eligible for free meals take up the offer, as the cost of living impacts further on family budgets.

See more information on qualifying for free school meals and how to apply.