Catering for change – How to adapt catering practices to the Bronze criteria

Resource: Case study

Newland School for Girls is a secondary school situated in Hull, East Yorkshire, with 833 pupils on its roll. Catering Manager Chris Johnson tells us how he transformed the school’s catering practices to meet the Bronze criteria. The school now has the Silver award.

Newland SchoolWhat changes did you have to make to achieve the Bronze award on the Food Quality and Provenance Criteria?

We started from a pretty low baseline as I had inherited suppliers from the previous caterers. The majority of meat was not Farm Assured and my existing suppliers only stocked eggs from caged hens. The seasonality of products was not being highlighted. We did meet the criteria for our freshly prepared meals. With having to start from scratch as it were, on the meat, it has given me an opportunity to work with local producers.

What was the most difficult aspect of achieving this award?

Having the time to find new suppliers and managing the costs and different delivery requirements of new suppliers. For example, smaller local producers don’t stock large quantities and they often butcher to order. For economical reasons they are not able to deliver with the same frequency as large wholesalers. I also ended up with more deliveries and invoices, which can be time consuming.

How did you overcome these challenges?

I started by asking my existing suppliers if they could supply the products to meet the criteria. In most cases with Farm Assured (FA) meat – especially chicken and bacon – the small amounts I needed didn’t justify buying Farm Assured products in. They didn’t really understand my need for these products as most of existing clients are looking for the cheapest and aren’t bothered where it comes from.

I then approached several local independent butchers but found the situation was the same as my existing suppliers and none of them could supply Farm Assured chicken or bacon and pork products. They also didn’t seem very interested in the extra business. The FA chicken is cheaper than the non FA chicken.

Disappointingly, I haven’t found a local supplier of FA chicken but use a large company in the West Midlands who supply UK FA Halal certified chicken, which I use for meals and sandwich fillings.

I then visited local food fairs and shows and approached producers direct – which is how I found my new egg supplier. I found my beef producer from an article in the local paper and contacted them direct. There has been a price increase but it is a much better product with less shrinkage.

We have purchased an extra large freezer to deal with the issue of less deliveries. This also allows us to give more notice of what we require and this works well.

There have been some cost increases and some decreases. We swapped our pork, bacon and sausages to a local Free Range pork company, which has increased the cost. Some of the meat costs more but it is better quality, and therefore goes further. The chicken costs less so this balances it to some degree. The eggs are expensive but it is worth the price to be using a local producer, and the pupils agree with this. We are also using some vegetables grown by the school, which is a cost saving.

I swapped my supplier of cooked and sliced meats to a local producer so the product is UK Farm Assured and meets Bronze criteria. There has been a price increase for this, so we have increased the price of a meat sandwich by 20p, but it is a much superior product and well worth the increase. Vegetarian sandwiches have remained the same price.

What costs have been involved in making these changes?

Fresh chicken fillets – Previous price: £4.68 per kg / Current price: £4.22 per kg
Chicken for sandwich fillings – Previous price (cooked & frozen dice): £4.90 per kg /
Current price (fresh raw plain): £4.22 per kg / (marinated): £4.67 per kg
Whole chickens – Current price (whole fresh): £1.92 per kg (.42 per portion) /
(previously used turkey – butterfly for roasting – not available as FA) £4.21 per kg (.48p per portion)

Pork (current price meets Silver criteria)
Sausages - Previous price (non FA pork): £4.40 per kg /
Current price (outdoor reared pork): £4.50 per kg
Bacon - Previous price: £8.62 per kg (cost per rasher .17p - non FA European) /
Current price: £5.50 per kg (cost per rasher .22p - outdoor reared UK FA)
* Whilst current price per kg is cheaper, the bacon is thicker so provides less yield – sliced thinner could be an option.
Pork Leg Joints for roasting - Previous price: £3.56 per kg (non FA European) /
Current price: £4.50 per kg (outdoor reared UK FA)

Topside joints - Previous price: £7.27 per kg / Current price: £9.40 per kg
Minced beef - Previous price: £4.67 per kg / Current price: £5.00 per kg
Stewing steak - Previous price: £5.86 per kg / Current price: £6.80n per kgChickens

Caged hens - Previous price: .86p per dozen
Free Range - Current Price: £1.20 per dozen (local producer)

Cooked Meats
Sliced ham - Previous price: £5.92 per kg /
Current price: £9.00 per kg
Sliced turkey - Previous price: £6.30 per kg /
Current price: £9.00 per kg

How did you promote the changes?

This was done through the SNAG group, on the school notice boards and in the newsletters. We also have more information on the menu. We have purchased a new display board for the dining room to explain what the different terms mean – eg seasonal, Farm Assured, Freedom Food, Organic, MSC fish.

What feedback have you received from staff and pupils at the schools?

We have had great comments about the bacon – tasting better and not as watery. Same for the marinated chicken – the kids love it.
The pupils were pleased with the fact we are now using Free Range eggs. This is something they understand and feel passionate about. There is also a great atmosphere in our refurbished restaurant – it’s bright and more fitting to the pupil’s age – and the increase in uptake reflects this.

What tips would you give caterers who are thinking about going for this level of award?

  • Do your homework and use local producers where you can as you can build a relationship that is mutually beneficial - you can also take advantage of gluts in produce.
  • Don’t get stuck in a rut by using the same suppliers – others can be cheaper and offer better products – look around and keep looking.
  • Be prepared to be flexible with deliveries – this might appear to be a nuisance but it can really help the producers, and again is all about building a good relationship.
  • Promote what you are changing – and ensure your customers know what’s happening and why.

How do you plan to sustain FFL in the future?

I am hoping that because the changes have been introduced gradually, and we have costed every change, what we are doing will be sustainable. I want to keep food at an affordable price for our customers and trust that the quality will draw them back.
We have managed to achieve these changes without increasing the prices for any of the hot meals – they are even greater value for money for a far superior product.
I also believe what we are doing is right and don’t believe it’s about making a profit.

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.

Big Lottery Fund

Soil Association Focus on Food Garden Organic Health Education Trust Royal Society for Public Health logo

© Food for Life Partnership 2013
Legal information - Accessibility