“Kids who understand the value of food now will buy better food in the future"
Resource: Case study
William White Meats Ltd is a London-based father and son business, which supplies meat to LEA caterers. Initially sceptical of Food for Life, WW Meats now supplies organic burgers and minced beef to Havering & Thurrock and Sutton caterers, sourced from Rother Valley Organics, a farm in Sussex and a licensee of the Soil Association.
What they’ve achieved
WW Meats first learned about the Food for Life Catering Mark after Havering & Thurrock Catering Services joined the programme. At first, Bill thought the programme would turn out to be a fad, but Thomas recognised that food provenance and sustainability were becoming a major driving force for consumers, so the two worked hard to help Havering achieve the Bronze Food for Life Catering Mark. Securing farm-assured chicken was a particular challenge, but after the initial flurry of activities – looking for new products, finding out about accreditation, pressuring their supply chain – things settled down. Now that most things are in place, WW Meats can concentrate on introducing individual products, such as local organic beef.
WW Meats was introduced to Rother Valley Organics, a Soil Association licensee, by a member of the Food for Life team in 2010. Thomas was interested in seeing the farm, but he was certain nothing would come of it – he didn’t think organic beef would be a viable option for school menus.
However, Sam Gaunt, the Business Manager at Rother Valley, and Thomas continued talking after the visit, looking for ways to make the product affordable. The fact that Kevin Hobart from Havering was interested in exploring organic options helped. And WW Meats had just won a new contract with Sutton Catering Services, whose lead, Angela Hogan, was very keen on serving organic items on the menu and obtaining the Silver Catering Mark.
Thomas and William were worried about Soil Association certification. They thought the process of obtaining certification was very complex and expensive. However, becoming Soil Association accredited turned out to be a lot simpler than they imagined, especially since the business already had a number of other accreditations in place (such as FSA): WW Meats just needed to ensure that they had a separate space for storing organic products, a paper trail, and new labels and packaging.
A year later, Havering & Thurrock and Sutton are serving Rother Valley organic beef burgers; with the former also serving other dishes made from organic minced beef – all at under 75p per meal!
What they say
Bill says: "For a long time school catering was in such a dire condition, it’s so reassuring that things have been changing. Programmes such as the Food for Life Partnership are definitely an important part of this change. A well fed child is a child who learns well.
I wouldn’t sell anything to a school that I wouldn’t eat myself – that’s my motto. Everyone knows we are very strict about that."
Thomas says: "Animal welfare matters to us. I would prefer to see the balance between, say, free-range chicken and ‘conventional’ chicken to tip in favour of the former – and we are working on it! But the reality of course is that it’s very difficult."
Sam say: "We are delighted to be involved. What the children eat is as important as what they learn, and what a great and important job the Food for Life team do. Long may they continue!"
The difference it makes
William White Meats Ltd has been growing in spite of the recession. They’ve learned that with the right product and determination you can have an organic, local product that comes from a reputable farm, at a price that even cash-stricken budgets can handle.
"Food for Life has been a critical part in what we’ve all been able to achieve as teaching children about where their food comes from raises their awareness; they start to appreciate they hard work that we’ve put in too.
"This also means that three boroughs were able to get the Catering Mark at Silver, and more are in the pipeline….
"We think of future too – kids who understand the value of food now will buy better food in the future. This way we also help this country’s economy and create our future market."
WW meats is now looking at supplying organic sausages and venison meatballs!