St Wilfrid's keeps its catering in-house

Resource: Case study

St Wilfrid's Secondary School in Wakefield offers fantastic in-house catering for 50% of its 1,800 pupils and 190 staff. The school has several food service bars which open from 11am as well as traditional hot meal provision.

We interviewed Kevin Walsh, Deputy Head and Helene Askham, Catering Manager to find out more...

What made you join the Food for Life Partnership?

During 2007 the school made a decision to bring catering provision in house after their contract with Bradford Catering Services ended. After reading about the Food for Life Partnership we decided that the criteria could provide a framework for our future catering strategy.

How did you decide who to source from?

We set up a suppliers’ day where existing and potential suppliers were invited to discuss the new direction of provision at the school. Priority was given to those suppliers who could best provide quality of service and local produce.

What successes have you had from being involved with Food for Life Partnership?

It has raised the profile of food in the school and there has been overall improvement in food quality. Changing to making our own sandwiches has also meant that the school was able to develop its own packaging. Staff morale has been brilliant - most of the catering staff have really got involved in the changes. Four members of staff now want to take NVQ’s and two members of kitchen staff are running an after school cooking club for yrs. 7 and 8. Meal uptake is up and feedback from the children has been really positive.

What problems have you encountered and how have you overcome them?

Sourcing free range poultry and pork took several months. By continuing to work closely with our existing supplier and Food for Life Parternship, we have made links with Richard Longthorpe, a Freedom Foods pork producer in East Yorkshire. Initially when we bought seasonal organic vegetables from a local farmer and box scheme, extra labour was needed to wash and peel dirty vegetables. We quickly overcame this by purchasing a rumbler for the kitchen. We had problems coping with seasonal changes and the rapidly increasing costs of less seasonal produce such as salad crops which are needed for sandwiches all year round. To manage these problems we also use a conventional vegetable supplier for some food products.

What costs have been involved in making changes to meet the Food for Life Partnership criteria?

Meal and sandwich prices have remained the same as last year. The money spent on sandwiches (previously <£20,000 per year), has been significantly reduced, allowing sandwich sales to subsidise some of the increased ingredient costs in other meals Overall costs on food including labour have risen by 10%.

What tips would you give caterers who are thinking about becoming part of the Food for Life Partnership?

There is a lot of work involved in making these changes, particularly at secondary school and with the new nutiritonal guidelines. Variety and choice is crucial to sustaining successful catering at this level. It’s also very important to have the whole school and particularly the Governors supporting the changes.

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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