Food for Life in the granite city

🏆 FFLSH since 2015   🏫 11,200 meals daily in 48 primaries and 13 secondaries

Aberdeen City Council began the process of Food for Life Served Here certification in 2012. In 2015 it achieved FFLSH Bronze for its 48 primary school meals (36 kitchens and 12 serveries), and in 2017 it extended the award to cover its secondary schools.

In addition to increased quality and freshness, catering staff have also reported greater job satisfaction in cooking meals from scratch.

Finding fresh solutions

Susan Bailey, catering adviser at the council, says that achieving the Bronze award was “very straightforward as most aspects were already in place.”

The council already had a contract with a local butcher, Gordon McWilliam (Aberdeen) Ltd, which meant that even before achieving the Bronze award, the meat was locally-sourced and farm assured. However, Susan says, ‘We had developed some bad habits and the award has been a fantastic way to get catering staff cooking again and paying attention to quality.’

For example, the original hot dog served was tinned, which did not comply with the requirement for 75% of meals to be freshly prepared. Rather than removing hot dogs from the menu, catering staff worked on a solution with McWilliam the butcher, which now makes the sausage meat for the hot dog product from scratch.

John Landragon, catering manager, adds, ‘I have noticed over the past three years that staff are finding their work much more satisfying. Some days they were just using food out of boxes. Now they are cooking from scratch, there’s more job satisfaction and the end product is much better.’

Working with secondary schools

Extending FFLSH to Aberdeen's secondary schools brought its own challenges. As John notes: “Some of our academies are in the city centre where there are lots of food outlets and lots of choice, so the challenge is to attract the pupils in the middle school to stay and eat in school.”

The set menu for primary schools has been replicated for secondary schools, offering a daily soup, two main dishes (one of which is vegetarian), and a dessert. ACC have also provided a ‘library’ of ‘grab and go’ items which meet the award criteria. Staff who are ordering for their school can use this ‘freshly prepared’ list to easily see how to source the right product.

Susan describes that it is not as hard as it might seem at first: "having more than just the set menu does make it a bit more complicated, but it is not difficult to find freshly-prepared and unprocessed items. It just needs a bit of thought to start with."

Although secondary school caterers have more autonomy than their primary school counterparts over ordering, Susan explains these changes worked well because “we have been working closely with our staff and our suppliers. We keep them involved and we involve the cooks in any changes.”