Balancing the books and going for the Silver Food for Life Catering Mark

Resource: Case study
Balancing the books and going for the Silver Food for Life Catering Mark

Havering and Thurrock Catering Services has achieved the Silver Food for Life Catering Mark by introducing organic items to its school menus. The school caterer manages to spend over 30% of its limited budget on organic and MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) products. Operations Manager Kevin Hobart tells us more.

Why did you sign up to the Food for Life Catering Mark in the first instance?

The Food for Life Catering Mark supports our strategy for sustainable procurement and animal welfare standards.

The Bronze award helped us focus on our aim of providing good food to the public. It also helped to promote our services. We see the Food for Life Catering Mark as a Michelin-style endorsement of our food and service. Our Bronze catering mark allowed schools in Havering and Thurrock to sign up for Food for Life Partnership awards at a local level, and this has increased our school meal take up.

Why did you decide to go for Silver?

It took some time to decide to go for Silver. Our main concern was the meal cost. We also wondered how we would source organic products that met our menu demands; however, our fresh meat supplier William White Meats supplied organic and Freedom Food meat products, and supported our product development.

Describe your steps to achieving Silver.

  • We assessed our bronze menus and identified areas for development.
  • We discussed the benefits and costs of going for Silver to our business
  • We talked to suppliers about sourcing products to meet the Silver criteria.
  • We looked at how we advertised our menus and food provenance to schools and customers.
  • We looked for evidence of what we were achieving already in terms of Silver.
  • And then we went for it!
  • We now serve organic minced beef, organic beef burgers and Freedom Food turkey.Organic burgers, MSC fish cakes and MSC fish fillets were used once in a 3-week cycle in 2010/11, but they will now be used twice. MSC fish fingers were used twice in a 3-week cycle 2010/11. Now they will be used 3 times.

Were there any benefits to introducing organic products to the menu?

We haven’t had much feedback from customers or schools about the organic products on the menu yet, but with more advertising and marketing we should see an impact - people spreading the word, as well as more training and briefings for cooks involved with Food for Life.

Going organic is more expensive, but we balanced the costs against "No Meat Mondays". It’s about spreading the additional costs of organic beef burgers, for example, across the whole menu.

As the organic products came through our current supplier we didn’t have any logistical issues with schools. The supplier did have some issues with product sourcing, buying and storage, but they worked this through. 

What are your plans for future?

Gold will be out of our reach until we get more schools on board going for Bronze and Silver. More headteachers need to be involved with Food for Life, so we’re planning the following marketing strategies:

  • New menu flyers for every child / parent
  • Bus stop adverts
  • Food provenance posters for every school
  • Advertorials in the local press
  • Press releases to the local press
  • Cooks training and farm visits.


The Food for Life Partnership is a network of schools and communities across England committed to transforming food culture. Together we are revolutionising school meals, reconnecting children and young people with where their food comes from, and inspiring families to grow and cook food.

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