Facing the challenges to deliver award-winning meals

🏆 FFLSH since 2013   🏫 4,100 meals daily in 82 primaries

Argyll and Bute is the second largest local authority by area in Scotland, covering almost 9% of the total Scottish land area, but it has the third sparsest population. There are 23 inhabited islands (more than any other local authority area), with around a fifth of the population living on an island, and over 45% living in a “remote rural” area.

This geographical profile means that Argyll and Bute faces considerable challenges in supplying the population generally, including supplying meals to 82 primary schools across its mainland and island areas. Some of the schools are very small – the smallest (Minard) has one pupil who receives their FFLSH meal courtesy of the five-roll Furnace school.

Despite the challenges, Argyll and Bute Council has held the Food for Life Served Here (FFLSH) Bronze award since 2013, serving just under 4,100 FFLSH-certified meals every day

Achieving and maintaining Bronze

According to Christine Boyle, Catering and Cleaning Officer with Argyll and Bute Council, achieving Bronze was the “stamp we needed to show that we are serving good food to children. We didn’t need to make any particular changes as we were already doing it. Everything that a council needs to do for Bronze should be done anyway.”

Christine explains how the council’s ethos to do the best for their children already aligned with the FFLSH standard: ‘the only thing we really had to change was the ham [Bronze requirement to buy only UK farm-assured meat].

“School cooks worry about budgets and we can’t be in 80 schools supervising all the time – the FFLSH award lets our staff know what they must do.”

With a commitment to serve FFL Bronze meals, and a procurement strategy that aligns with FFLSH principles, the main issue for Argyll and Bute Council was one of distribution.

It has made considerable efforts - finding alternative arrangements and very local solutions - to get local food to the places it needs to be.

The council has taken steps to make public markets more accessible to local suppliers. Treating all suppliers ‘equally and without discrimination’, they have enabled local producers to participate on an equal footing by considering ‘early market engagement prior to the publication of a contract notice, breaking requirements into smaller lots where appropriate, and using clear and precise language in tender documents.

The council uses a whole network of local suppliers, including:

🥦 M. Breckenridge of West of Scotland & Highland for fruit and vegetables

🍞 Black of Dunoon (Bakery) Ltd for bread

🧀 Campbeltown Creamery cheese

🥩 S. Porter family butcher on Islay

🥛 J. Campbell of Lochgilphead for milk

Food for Life Scotland Ambassadors

Karen MacIntyre, Cook at Dunbeg Primary, Oban, and Christine Boyle, Catering and Cleaning Officer for Argyll and Bute have been awarded as Food for Life Scotland Ambassadors for their local authority.

Karen has been working with students at Dunbeg Primary School to get them out and about and planting vegetables in the school garden. The students are learning through doing, finding out about where their food comes from and building up their gardening skills. Karen hopes to host a harvest festival event for parents and the wider community in the autumn to showcase all that her students have achieved. 

Christine is aiming to reduce the amount of food wasted in schools, reduce the use of single use plastic and increase recycling. She has set up a student focus group at Dunoon Grammar to discuss first steps and how they can reduce disposable items in the dining hall.