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Food for Life Announces Peter Melchett Award Winner and Bids Farewell to Jeanette Orrey

Totnes St John

At the Peter Melchett Award ceremony, we celebrated Food for Life schools winning at the whole school approach and bid farewell to Jeanette Orrey.

The Peter Melchett Award is Food for Life’s most prestigious accolade. A moment to remember a Food for Life hero and celebrate a Food for Life school for doing exactly what Peter always knew was possible. 

Lord Peter Melchett co-founded Food for Life and was instrumental in transforming the food that young people eat in schools, and on the high street in the UK.

This year’s ceremony provided the perfect opportunity to say farewell to our co-founder Jeanette Orrey, who decided to ‘hang up the apron’ after almost twenty years with Food for Life.

The virtual event took place on 3rd March 2022, where Food for Life team members, schools, judges, and a few special guests came together to congratulate the shortlisted schools and honour Jeanette’s time at Food for Life.

Congratulations to the winner of the Peter Melchett Award 2021: Totnes St John’s Church of England Primary School

Last summer, we asked schools across the UK to demonstrate the innovative ways they use the whole school approach to food. Three schools were shortlisted for the award including St Mary’s C of E in Leicestershire, Newland St Johns C of E Academy in Hull and Totness St John’s in Devon.

After much deliberation, our esteemed judging panel selected one outstanding winner: Totnes St John’s.

Totnes St John’s sits in a deprived area in Devon with double the school meals entitlement than the national average. The award acknowledges their exceptional demonstration of the whole school approach to food, which is transforming food culture in their school and extending beyond the classroom into the wider community.

Soil Association’s Managing Director, James Cashmore praised the school for their excellent project:

“Totnes St John’s took the whole school approach to food further than we have ever seen before. Their broad and holistic concept of food encompassed the trust they’re part of, their school kitchen, children, families, farmers and suppliers, and local community. This school used food to bring people together and break down barriers to change not only the school but the community it served.”

Totnes St John’s is rooted in community and this has become deeply ingrained in their approach to food. For example, they opened their green space to the community and got children involved in cooking activities using food they had grown. As part of the children’s learning journey about food they prepared meals to share at a local food market, spreading hope in their community during the pandemic.

Sam Ward, Trust Catering Lead at the Academy for Character and Excellence, supports the school with their Gold Food for Life Award. She said: “We’re honoured to be alongside those other schools who were shortlisted. I’m really proud of the school, who are so passionate and committed.”

Head Teacher of Totnes St John’s, William Jaworski, said: “We believe the whole school approach nurtures children for the next step in their lives. We would like to thank Food for Life for your support and recognition.”

The school has been presented with a wooden trophy carved from a tree near Peter Melchett’s farm in Norfolk, as well as £1000!


Our runners up, St Mary’s C of E and Newland St John’s also did incredibly well, with excellent demonstrations of the whole school approach. As a thank you, they will each receive a copy of Jenny Chandler’s book ‘Green Kids Cook’.

The judges were astounded by the quality of applications during such a challenging year, and we’d like to congratulate all schools who took time to enter the award and improve school food.

Farewell to Jeanette Orrey and a few heartfelt words from our guests

While celebrating these fantastic schools, it seemed only right to express gratitude to Jeanette Orrey, who teamed up with Lord Peter Melchett to co-found Food for Life back in 2003.

Jeanette was presented with gifts to recognise her years of service as a cook and campaigner, including a large wooden bowl carved from a tree on Peter’s farm.

Jeanette Orrey

Joanna Lewis, Policy and Strategy Director at the Soil Association said:

“Food for Life inspired Jamie Oliver’s school dinners series and it took Jeanette and Peter all the way to No 10 and the rest is history. The stories from today’s schools really remind us why we shouldn’t rest until every child has that school experience. As Jeanette always reminds me: Food for Life is about the children.”

Cass Wedd, Lord Peter Melchett’s partner, said:

“Peter’s collaboration with Jeanette was a match made in heaven. They had enormous respect for one another and their mutual enthusiasm, energy and straightforwardness meant that they achieved a huge amount and had great fun while doing it. I know Jeanette will be greatly missed at Food for Life but the legacy of her fond partnership with Peter ensures that we will treasure our friendship together.”

Jeanette has steered Food for Life from its initial Bristol pilot of 6 schools to an internationally recognised programme with 10,000 schools, acknowledged in the School Food Plan, National Food Strategy and Hospital food review. 

Now over 2 million good and healthy meals are served in public food settings a day through the Food for Life Served Here scheme. 

Sharing her gratitude for everyone’s involvement in Food for Life and the campaign for better school food, Jeanette said:

“I couldn’t have done it without all the cooks, kitchen assistants and head teachers that I have worked with over the years. You’ve been phenomenal. All three schools have taken Food for Life to that next level, so it’s over to you.”

We hope to honour Jeanette’s legacy at Food for Life by supporting the health of our nation through good food and aiming to make nutritious school meals accessible for all children.