Making a difference in Moray
This is the third blog in our series of caterer interviews in the run up to International School Meals Day, on Thursday 9th March. The theme this year is Our changing food - methods, menus and meals. We have been speaking to a selection of our wonderful caterers from across Scotland to hear more about the work they are doing to promote good food within their community. Good food is food that’s good for health, good for the environment and good for the local economy, and so not only are caterers putting a nutritious meal on a plate, but they are also having a much wider positive impact that benefits us all.
Moray Council has held the Food for Life served Here Bronze Award since 2022. Elaine McRae, Catering Manager, Environmental and Commercial Services, Moray Council, spoke to us about some of the work she’s been doing to test new methods, improve menus and provide every child with a freshly prepared and sustainable meal.
Working with local suppliers
Elaine says, “Since signing up to the Food for Life Served Here Award, we’ve developed our relationships with local suppliers and are regularly in contact with them about what’s in season. We are also always keen to work with farmers if they have a surplus of a specific product and will do our best to add the items to school menus.
“Our meat comes from local butchers Fraser Brothers and Andersons. We also buy as much of our fruit and veg locally as we can, and our fish comes from Whitehills in Aberdeenshire.”
A holistic approach
Elaine says, “When we’re planning a menu now, we will work the Food for Life Served Here standards in throughout. Our staff have learnt a lot about seasonality and provenance as part of this process. We have seasonality charts and posters in our dining halls, and this helps students and staff to understand more about the journey their food has been on from farm to fork.
“We’re trying to spread the word as much as we can and Debbie Ritchie, our Food for Life Scotland Ambassador, is doing talks in primary schools to help raise awareness of what can be grown locally. Our caterers are also giving presentations at parents’ evenings to promote school meals, as well as at the induction events for P1. There’s no doubt our staff now feel more valued and involved and get more recognition for the work that they do.”
Too Good to Throw Out
Moray Council has been working on an innovative initiative in secondary schools called Too Good to Throw Out. Elaine explains “This is a new idea we’ve been working on to reduce food waste. If we have leftovers that haven’t been touched and can be reheated easily, we’ll try to ensure these don’t go to waste. We will repackage the items, making sure they are carefully labelled with any allergens, and then allow students to take them home with them. This will often go to students who need it the most. There’s no reason why good food should go spare when people need it.”
Food for Life Served Here in early years settings
Elaine continues, “Moray Council is proud that our early years settings are now included in our Food for Life Served Here Award. It was a relatively simple process to add early years to the award that we already had for our primary schools as we use a lot of the same suppliers and recipes across both age groups. There was only really a couple of extra changes we had to make to get early years added.
“We would recommend other local authorities ask the Food for Life team about how early years age groups can be added to your award. We were offered a great deal of support which made the journey much easier.”
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