Serving up fresh, local and sustainable school meals in Orkney

🏆 FFLSH since 2020   🏫 1,775 meals a day in 16 primaries, 3 junior high schools and 2 secondaries

 

Orkney Islands Council achieved the Food for Life Served Here Bronze award for their primary, junior high and secondary school meals service in 2020.

The Food for Life Served Here award is an independent guarantee of quality, which recognises councils that are serving school meals made from fresh ingredients, using free-range eggs and high-welfare meat, and free from genetically modified ingredients and undesirable additives.

The Council achieved the award despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, and catering teams are serving hot and nutritious meals to pupils across Orkney’s 16 certified primary schools, 3 certified junior high schools and 2 certified secondary schools.

With a strong history of cooking from scratch in Orkney schools, and a commitment to sourcing much of its produce from local sources, achieving the Food for Life Served Here Bronze award demonstrates Orkney Islands Council’s values and ethos of serving fresh, local and sustainable meals in the region’s schools.

Councillor Gwenda Shearer, Chair of Orkney Islands Council Education, Leisure and Housing Committee, said: “We have long been proud of the standard and range of meals in our schools, but to achieve an award of this calibre, during these challenging times, has to be applauded. As some families face ever more difficult circumstances during the pandemic, never has it been more important to ensure our children and young people receive the option of a nutritious meal – improving pupils’ health and learning potential, and introducing good food habits from a young age.”

A commitment to good food

In 2019, the Food for Life Scotland team introduced the Food for Life Served Here standards to Orkney Islands Council. They resonated with the Council’s aims.

“The standards focus on food quality, food leadership and food culture, food education and community and partnership,” says OIC Catering Supervisor Marina Miller. “They reflected much of what we were trying to achieve as a service, so we decided to apply to be assessed.”

With support from the FFLS team, Marina and former Schools Catering Manager Anne Harrison worked with their caring and committed catering team to meet each of the standards. “The team are focused on preparing and providing locally-sourced, flavoursome and vibrant meals across all Orkney’s schools,” says Scott Pring, now Schools Catering Manager for Orkney. "What’s more, this has been achieved for less than the cost of a cup of coffee. For just £2.50, pupils get a two-course lunch that meets the standards and is delivered by our well trained, thoughtful and friendly kitchen staff.”

Sourcing high quality produce from local suppliers

Orkney schools’ menu includes homemade soups and sandwiches, and hot meals including vegetable stir fry and macaroni cheese. The Council sources from Orkney-based producers and suppliers where possible, to reduce food miles, to support the local economy, and to make the most of Orkney’s extensive and high quality natural larder.

Fresh vegetables, such as cabbages, onions, carrots, neeps and tatties are grown in Orkney, and farming and fishing are part of the way of life. Orkney Fisherman’s Society opened in 1953 and has supplied Orkney schools with fresh fish, such as haddock and salmon, since 2015.

Orkney Islands Councils sources meat from local butcher Williamsons. The local business supplies products including grass-fed beef and lamb. “I am very proud to be associated with the Food for Life Served Here award,” says Williamsons’ Alistair Flett. “It’s great to know the bairns are eating local produce.”

Marina says: “We benefited from having very good working relationships with our local suppliers. We offer a high standard of school meals across Orkney using local produce. Achieving the Food for Life Served Here award gives them the recognition they deserve.”

“I offer my thanks for the efforts of all frontline catering staff, managers, Council staff and organisations involved in upskilling and carrying out all the work necessary to achieve the award – doing this despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic. It is really remarkable that Orkney Islands Council serves 1,775 Food for Life Served Here meals each day on average. I hope that Orkney’s example will inspire other local authorities to take up the challenge to achieve the award.”
Minister for the Rural Economy and Natural Environment Ben Macpherson MSP

“The pupils are at the heart of everything we do; building and forging positive relationships to help develop young minds to make informed choices that will develop a life-long commitment to a healthy lifestyle.”

Scott Pring, Schools Catering Manager, Orkney Islands Council

Standards and seasonality training

As part of the Council's preparation for achieving the Food for Life Served Here award, catering staff took part in a Standards and Seasonality training session with the Food for Life Scotland team.

Catering staff at the training session discussed their favourite recipes and brainstormed ideas for including more vegetables in school menus – from adding carrots and courgette to bolognaise sauce, to making green spinach buns for Hallowe’en.

A selection of fresh fruit and vegetables was procured for the session from local wholesaler J. W. Gray + Co, and staff worked together to prepare a range of delicious dishes, including a seasonal coleslaw, broccoli and cheese filled potatoes, and roasted carrot houmous.

Following the training, all participants said they understood the FFLSH Bronze award standards and felt more confident about using seasonal ingredients in their school kitchen.