Aberdeen City gives peas a chance

Aberdeen City gives peas a chance

Soil Association Scotland and Aberdeen City Council have launched a pilot project to get organic peas into school meals, thanks to funding from Sustain’s Bridging the Gap Programme 

The 12-month Give Peas a Chance pilot project aims to open up a new route to market for this local, organic, nutritious and climate friendly plant protein, allowing pupils to access healthy and sustainable food. It is a partnership between Soil Association Scotland, Aberdeen City Council catering and procurement teams, pea producer Phil Swire of Balmakewan Farm, the Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET) and the Royal Northern Countryside Initiative (RNCI).  

Sustainable food and farming alliance Sustain’s Bridging the Gap programme aims to enable everyone to enjoy a universally healthy, just and sustainable food system, by reducing barriers to planet-friendly food for people experiencing low incomes. The programme will deliver a series of pilot projects – including this one – across the UK that demonstrate the policies and financial mechanisms that would bridge the gap. 

The organic peas will be in Aberdeen City Council schools from April 2024 until June 2025. The pilot will include menu development to create new pea-based recipes, new educational resources developed by RHET and classroom visits from RNCI, and a producer engagement and knowledge-sharing event for farmers to share learnings from the pilot. 

The Food for Life Scotland programme, which is run by Soil Association Scotland and funded by The Scottish Government, focuses on the power of public food and its potential to have a positive impact on health, the environment, and the local economy. Food for Life Scotland supports local authorities to achieve the Food for Life Served Here (FFLSH) award for their school meals services. Aberdeen City Council has held the FFLSH Bronze award since 2015, and is serving more than 11,000 fresh, local and sustainable school meals in its 47 primary schools and 11 secondary schools every day.  

Lucie Wardle, Senior Development Manager, Soil Association Scotland, said: “We’re delighted to be part of this exciting pilot project. Introducing Scottish organic peas to the school meal plate will create a favourable environment for children to experience nature friendly foods in a fun and tasty way. We want to normalise enjoying pulses as part of a healthy diet and unlock barriers in the supply chain and current food culture to allow everyone to access climate friendly, nutritious and delicious foods.  

“Products like these organic peas are a win-win. It’s a locally-sourced, sustainable product that’s good for health, the environment, and the local economy. Through this pilot project, we want to show the power of public procurement for getting more of these types of high-quality Scottish ingredients on to school meal plates.”  

Councillor Martin Greig, Convener of Aberdeen City Council Education and Children's Services Committee, said: “The health and wellbeing of all pupils in the city is a top priority. School meals should be nutritious and contain as much fresh, local and sustainable food as possible. It's reassuring that Aberdeen has held the Food for Life Served Here Bronze award since 2015.  

“Good quality food is an important way to nourish and support young people. The Give Peas a Chance pilot programme is an excellent opportunity for us to bring more organic produce into the menu. This programme will give catering teams a chance to develop recipes and menus.” 

Sara Smith, Learning and Development Co-ordinator, Royal Highland Education Trust, said: “The Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET) and the Royal Northern Countryside Initiative (RNCI) are delighted to be working with the Soil Association and other partners to deliver the ‘Give Peas a Chance’ programme funded through Sustain and the Bridging the Gap fund. We look forward to engaging young people and teachers to share the power of the pea and embed healthy and sustainable diets for all through an education offering including farm and classroom visits and educational resources.”