Fresh school meals that boost staff skills

🏆 FFLSH since 2013   🏫 4,200 meals daily in 37 primaries

East Lothian Council achieved the Food for Life Served Here (FFLSH) Bronze award in 2013 and upgraded to the FFLSH Silver award in 2022.

For the Council, FFLSH contributes to local authority and national priorities and serves as a way to link and impact several areas, including improving workforce skills, developing local business, contributing to environmental regeneration, and tacking inequalities. The standard of minimum 75% freshly prepared dishes facilitated the council’s efforts to upskill its workforce, build employee confidence, and help catering staff to progress professionally.

“Our cooks were already cooking from scratch, but we needed to look at what they were cooking from scratch. It was about doing the right thing for children. FFLSH accreditation meant that we could guarantee that we were doing the right thing all the time; not just some of the time.”

Lorraine Faulds, Senior Officer in Facilities Management Services

Developing workforce skills

ELC is committed to making sure that cook supervisors and catering assistants equally understand about local food so they can maintain the FFLSH Silver award.

As part of working towards Food for Life Served Here, cooks in charge received formal training on food provenance and quality. Kitchen assistants are being encouraged to work their way up to supervisor roles, and several catering assistants have gone on to become cook supervisors because they have shown the aptitude and enthusiasm for running a kitchen. 

At first, lack of confidence could be a barrier. Lorraine says, “We have to work hard to encourage assistants to believe in themselves. They might say to me, ‘Oh I couldnae go there’ if I ask them to cover for a cook supervisor in another school.

“But I say, ‘Yes, you could,’ and I break it down into something manageable for them. It’s about building good relationships, believing in them, and, in turn, them believing in what you are trying to do.”

Climate goals

"Earlier this year East Lothian Council adopted its Climate Change strategy. The school meals service continues to champion local produce and suppliers providing clear examples of a local, sustainable economy in action."

Vanessa Sanal, Service Manager at East Lothian Council

Learning about local

Lorraine says that not everyone understood what local meant in practice, or what it meant to be serving FFLSH meals. “I had to reassure them that I wouldn’t suddenly be asking them to cook lobster. They’d still be making macaroni cheese, but the raw ingredients would be at award level.”

Lorraine describes how using local produce also linked into educational activities with the pupils.

"George Anderson has been our distributor and supplier of fresh vegetables for several years, and we organised a competition for the children to get to see the potatoes being graded and so on. The cooks were able to go along as well.

“And then after that, some schools started growing their own, and the cooks were saying, ‘Your tatties are ready – let’s cook leek and tattie soup this week,’ and they would tell the children in the dining room, ‘Today you are eating your own potatoes’.

“It really caught staff’s interest. They do all sorts of great things on their own initiative now.”

The East Lothian supplier taking local veg into schools

Family business George Anderson & Sons has supplied fresh produce across the Central Belt of Scotland for the last 35 years.

“Over the last five years we’ve returned back to trying to source as much local produce as we possibly can,” says Mike Robertson, General Manager. “Our strawberries come from Blacketyside Farm, which is directly across the Firth of Forth. All our potatoes are from a farm that’s about two miles away.”

But Mike says that the role of George Anderson & Sons is increasingly more than simply supplying produce: “We also need to be doing a bit of education as well. We realised there are a lot of schools we’re delivering to where some of the children haven’t seen a strawberry before.”

George Anderson & Sons now take a fruit and veg roadshow into schools, using fresh ingredients to create a beautiful display before the pupils join for a tasting session. “We’ve had feedback that the kids go back to their classrooms talking about what they saw and tasted. They’re excited about it and that’s how it should be.”

“We show them what kind of fruit and veg is out there that is actually grown in Scotland that they can be tasting and eating. We see our role as more educational as time goes by.”

Mike Robertson, General Manager

Food for Life Scotland Ambassadors

Ashley Kilpatrick, Cook Supervisor at Campie Primary School, and Tracey McConnachie, Assistant Area Officer, East Lothian Council, are the Food for Life Ambassadors in East Lothian.

Ashley has been working with students at her school to set up a grow garden with the aim of teaching children about where their food comes from with a hands-on approach. The children will be involved at all stages, from prepping allotments to sowing seeds and caring for the produce as it grows. These activities will also help East Lothian Council to progress from the Bronze to Silver Food for Life Served Here Award by making healthy eating easier for students.

Tracey’s action plan focuses on educating East Lothian catering staff about what Food for Life Scotland is, the award criteria, and actions that can be taken to progress the award. She is also working with kitchen supervisors to engage with school management teams and parents to spread the good food message further. This will involve creating weekly displays of fruit, veg and seasonal ingredients and giving out menu cards which students can take home.