Jeanette Orrey MBE, co-founder of Food for Life, receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Jeanette Orrey MBE, Food for Life co-founder, receives Lifetime Achievement Award

We are delighted that last night, co-founder of Food for Life Jeanette Orrey MBE was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from Public Sector Catering. It was great to celebrate Jeanette’s exceptional dedication to providing children with nutritious, hot meals in schools and campaigning for improved children’s health nationally.

The Lifetime Achievement Award acknowledges Jeanette’s outstanding and dedicated contribution to the industry. Jeanette began her career as a school cook at St Peter’s in Nottinghamshire, where she joined forces with the headteacher to create a school meals model based on sourcing local food, organic where possible, with processed food kept to a minimum.

St. Peter's became the first school to ever win the Soil Association's prestigious, 'Local Food Initiative of the Year Award', leading to St. Peter's and The Soil Association working together to create the Food for Life programme.

Good food for all

Food for Life’s ethos is that good food should be easily available for everyone, everywhere and every day.  We know that children who eat well learn well and developing a healthy relationship with food during childhood sets up good eating habits for life. Thanks to the many Food for Life caterers, school cooks, teachers and Public Health commissioners, over 1 million children eat healthy and freshly prepared meals in school every day: nutritious and tasty food that’s good for them and also good for the planet.

Editor of Public Sector Catering magazine and chair of judges David Foad praised Jeanette’s dedication, compassion and her ability to see beyond the nutritional good of what's on the plate to the wider benefits of a hot midday meal for children. He also applauded that Jeanette has been tireless in campaigning for a properly resourced and well-run school meals service that serves the many and not the few.

An influential voice for positive change

Jeanette is an influential voice for positive change in healthy school food, which is needed now more than ever. With the implications of Covid-19 on the catering industry and children’s food and health, Jeanette has campaigned tirelessly to ensure good food is available for all children. She was recently part of the board which drew up the School Food Checklist for Covid-19 to assist caterers to develop safe food preparation and service during Covid-19. This was developed with the School Food Plan Alliance and is now listed on the Government website. Jeanette has also led on and contributed to numerous industry webinars to offer a guiding voice in these difficult times for caterers.

Jamie Oliver said: “For me, Jeanette is a bit of a national hero. We first met 20 years ago and seeing the amazing work she was doing in the school kitchen at St Peter’s really inspired me to take action and tackle school dinners across the country. Jeanette’s kitchen set a really important example, and the work she’s done both in her school and beyond has had a massively positive impact on our Early Years kids and how they eat. We need more people like Jeanette and her headmaster at St Peter’s, David Maddison. You’ve got to be brave, patient and creative to take a stand, and Jeanette is certainly all that, leading the way via Food for Life not only in UK schools, but internationally, too. Congratulations, Jeanette – here’s to another 20 years of showing people how it’s done.”

Jeanette told us: “To be presented with a lifetime achievement award by your peers is a huge honour in these very challenging times. To be able to share with the school meals catering teams across the country is priceless.  Food for Life has made such a difference to so many children, and I would like to thank the many people over the years who have made this possible.”

Find out more about Food for Life’s work with schools.