Delivering long term impact through school meals

🏆 FFLSH since 2009   🏫 9,900 meals daily in 171 primaries and 59 nurseries

Despite the challenges of serving Scotland's largest geographical council area, including some of the most sparsely populated parts of the UK, Highland Council has successfully maintained the Food for Life Served Here award for its primary school meals since 2009.

And the benefits go beyond the food on the plate - the Food for Life Served Here award links directly to the Highland Outcome Improvement Plan to 2027, delivering on outcomes and priorities around diversifying the economy, improving markets, and tackling unemployment.

Ten years of Food for Life

In 2019, Highland Council celebrated a decade of award-winning school meals!

Fergus Ewing MSP presented the award to Aileen Wylie, Cook in Charge at Central Primary School, Inverness.

“It's great to see Highland Council being recognised for such long standing commitment to the Food For Life programme, which has made such a difference to the lives of many young people across the country, by guaranteeing that school children can access delicious, healthy and sustainable food that’s been grown, sourced and produced in Scotland."

Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy

Supporting local suppliers through policy

Highland Council has a history of supporting local food producers and, even before 2009, was supporting the use of local produce, products and services, with an action plan for local food which complemented and supported the developing National Food and Drink Policy for Scotland.

According to Sue Nield, catering services manager with Highland Council, achieving FFLSH Bronze was fairly straightforward because what the council’s catering service was already doing fitted with the principles of Food for Life.

"We have always been a passionate team and we care about where our ingredients come from. The council has long supported local food and farmers markets and promoted supply opportunities to local suppliers. There was no real increase in budget as we already had local contracts in place and met many of the criteria.

"Everything we do is geared towards ensuring that children get fresh, local meat and vegetables which are traceable. More and more parents are interested in that, and they’re confident about what we are doing."

Prioritising staff training

For the strategy to work on the plate, cooks in schools are supported to make tasty and nutritious meals with the ingredients supplied. This includes regular workshops and training days for cooks, monthly bulletins, recipes and advice.

Sue says, “We make sure we include anything to do with FFLSH in the bulletins. We gave all schools the FFL catering handbook and we use it as part of our annual monitoring of schools.

“We’ve had the occasional challenge. For example, some of our cooks weren’t used to using organic herbs and salad leaves which may have had a more ‘earthy’ appearance, and the introduction of ‘home cooked’ recipes gave them new challenges.

“So, we ensure that we provide regular information and support on how to prepare new recipes with any new products we introduce.”

Food for Life Scotland Ambassadors

Anja Fulestad, Head Cook, Croy Primary School, and Katy Richardson, Cook in Charge, Lochardil Primary School have been awarded as Food for Life Scotland Ambassadors for Highland Council.

Anja has been made an ambassador for her work hosting cooking lessons, growing in the school polytunnel and holding seasonal picnics with pupils at Croy Primary School. Through teaching students about food she gives them the knowledge needed to make better food choices and encourages them to try new flavours.

Katy has increased awareness of Food for Life within Lochardil Primary school, a big school with 450 children and 2 big dining halls in use every day. The uptake of hot meals has increased as she has adapted the menu to include more cooking from scratch, set up a menu board in the school and encouraged students to make posters about healthy eating.