Award-winning school meals that get local food on the plate

🏆 FFLSH since 2018   🏫 8,200 meals daily in 67 primaries

West Lothian Council provides Food for Life Served Here (FFLSH) Bronze school meals to pupils in 67 primary schools. The council began the process of FFLSH certification in 2017 and achieved the Bronze award in their primary schools in December 2018, after reviewing both their primary school menus and the processes involved in sourcing and preparing food.

The council were particularly keen to source produce more locally wherever possible. Kirsteen Sullivan, Deputy Leader of West Lothian Council, says: “West Lothian have a rich history of agriculture, and we’ve always had many food producers in the area. Now that people are starting to reconnect with food, we are looking to buy more local produce.”

The journey to Bronze

To offer more local food within budget, the council made a number of key changes to their menus:

🥩 All meat is now sourced from farms which satisfy UK animal welfare standards

🍳 Eggs are now from free-range hens

🥦 Seasonal produce is highlighted on menus

🍽 More dishes are freshly prepared on site

Kirsteen Sullivan says: “As we’re all aware, Local Authorities throughout Scotland are facing severe budgetary pressures. A lot of people may think their food would be more expensive to have homegrown produce brought into schools. That isn’t necessarily the case. We can buy food locally, we can cook from scratch and save money. We can make a pot of soup in half an hour or forty minutes, using fresh vegetables from the fields just a few miles away. It is possible to do that.”

Huge increase in Scottish meat on school plates

The council are now sourcing as much produce as possible from local suppliers. Fruit and vegetables are now supplied by George Andersons, fresh butcher meat is supplied by Campbells Prime Meats, and Scottish milk is supplied by Muller Wisemans.

Since achieving the Food for Life Served Here Bronze award for their school meals, 95% of fresh butcher meat – and 88% of all meat – served in West Lothian’s primary schools is now sourced from Scotland.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “This is great news. The provision of fresh, local, sustainable produce such as quality assured, lean and red Scottish meat is not only an important part of a child’s diet, but also beneficial to our farmers, and to the environment – by reducing the miles that food has to travel from ‘farm to fork’ and therefore reducing emissions."

“We are immensely proud to be part of the Food for Life Scotland programme.  A lot of our workforce live locally with children in West Lothian schools, so it is a project that is very close to home."

Alan Williamson, Campbells Prime Meats

“When I started as a cook all those years ago, we were actually preparing fresh vegetables, fresh fruit and meat, and there were very little processed foods. After being involved in the working group with Food for Life, it gave you a bit of motivation and made you think – actually, what was I trained to do? I was trained to produce good, high quality food.”

Novena Miller, Catering Supervisor at Knightsridge Primary School

Empowering catering staff

From the outset, West Lothian Council committed to ensuring that catering staff were at the front and centre of the changes they made to their school menus, and empowered to offer their input to the project.

Cathleen Henderson, Catering Coordinator at West Lothian Council, formed a working group of catering staff to ensure that they were involved throughout the journey to securing the Bronze Award. She explains: “We brought them in, we had our taster session, then brought them back to the kitchen and they all demonstrated their skills.”

Food for Life Scotland ran a hands-on introductory seasonality workshop for staff on the Food for Life principles, and delivered two training sessions on the Bronze Award standards. This ensured that staff were comfortable that they had the requisite skills to prepare fresh food on site, and that they understood the need for locally sourced, healthier, freshly prepared meals.

Cathleen added: “Just being there, in the working group, the girls have got their bounce back. It’s given them the motivation to actually feel that their job’s worth it. We are so passionate about our job and feeding these kids a nutritional, balanced diet."