Does you have an external caterer?

To meet the food quality requirements of your Food for Life Award, settings with external (private or local authority) caterers will need their caterer to hold the Food for Life Catering Mark at Bronze or above.

This does not apply to settings who have in-house catering arrangements or who either provide / have their meals provided by an other early years setting or school at a small scale (see below for more details).

On this page you'll find:

Why ask your Caterer to hold the Catering Mark?

  • The Catering Mark requires caterers to demonstrate compliance with the national voluntary food and drink guidelines for early years settings and verifies that caterers have these systems in place for meeting the standards.
  • Caterers who are accredited by Catering Mark are subject to an annual inspection, including on site visit, so we – and you - can be sure that your food meets our award quality standards.
  • If your caterer holds Catering Mark, you’ll automatically check off all the criteria in the food quality section of your award which means that you don’t need to gather any further evidence and documentation.

Check whether your Caterer already holds a Catering Mark

  • Look on Food for Life Catering Mark website where you can find more information and also look for caterers which hold the Catering Mark.
  • Contact your caterer to find out if they hold the Food for Life Catering Mark and if it covers meals served in your setting. Please note you can ask to see the caterer’s schedule of certified sites in order to check whether your meals are awarded.

If your caterer holds Catering Mark for your setting let the Food for Life awards team know and we’ll make sure the relevant criteria are checked off.

If your caterer holds Catering Mark, but not for you, arrange a meeting with your Catering Manager to let them know that you are working towards your Food for Life award and would like them to extend the scope of their Catering Mark award to cover your meals. See the Caterer section below for advice on how they can do that.

If your caterer does not hold a Catering Mark:

  • If you are considering a change of caterer or renewing your contract, specify that they must hold Food for Life Catering Mark in the tender / contract.  We can provide some examples of how others have approached this.
  • If you already have a caterer in place, arrange to meet with your catering manager and pass on information on the Catering Mark, which you’ll find here
  • Get in touch and let us know the name of your caterer.  We can pass these details to our Catering Mark team who will get in touch with your caterer and explain what they will need to do to achieve the award.
  • Highlight benefits of Catering Mark to them – you can find these here. Your caterer can also have a look at the Catering Mark FAQs to answer any initial questions they may have.
  • Agree timescales and award levels – Caterers should allow six weeks for the application process to accommodate the application inspection and any actions raised.
  • Ask your caterer to let you know how they are getting on, for example: when their Catering Mark inspection is due to take place, and any actions that arise after inspection. Their Catering Mark will be awarded as soon as they have completed these actions – so ask them to keep you posted!

What support is available to help your caterer achieve Catering Mark?

If your caterer is already a Catering Mark holder but not for your setting, it is very simple for them to extend their award. All they need to do is to get in touch with their Catering Mark Certification Officer, who will talk them through the process. They will need to supply their Certification Officer with the following information:

  • The name/s of the setting/s they would like to add, and their location/s
  • The date when they will be serving Catering Mark menus to your setting
  • Any differences in the new menus.

If they are not sure who your Certification Officer is, they can call 0117 914 2411 or email proc.cert@soilassociation.org

If your caterer is not a Catering Mark holder, ask them to get in touch with their regional Catering Mark Development Manager and arrange a meeting. This meeting with help assess where they are now and what they may need to do to achieve a Catering Mark. The Development Managers are there to provide caterers with practical advice and support as they work towards accreditation.

There are many benefits to holding the catering mark, not least that it verifies the meals served meet the national voluntary food and drink guidelines for early years settings. 

Once your caterer has achieved their award, the Catering Mark team will work with them to communicate their achievement to a wider audience, including local press.

If you need any further information or help, please contact our awards team on 0117 314 5180 or email ffl@foodforlife.org.uk

Food for Life Catering Mark

Confused by Catering?

Is our catering external?
If your local authority or a private catering company manage your kitchen or deliver hot meals to you, your catering is external.

Is our catering in house?
If you self-manage your catering service, employ your own team, create your own menus, and manage the ordering process, your catering is in-house.

Still not sure?
Ask your administrator / business manager or give one of our team a call on 0117 314 5180.

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