In 2014, Ferrars Junior School made the decision to join three other local schools in their venture to improve the school meal experience for pupils. This was not undertaken lightly and involved many months of research and preparation by the Headteachers and Brian Herbert, Business Manager at Ferrars Junior School. With the support and advice from Food for Thought Ltd in Liverpool, a not-for-profit (social enterprise) company was created and named ‘Food Counts Ltd’, with the four Headteachers registered as directors with Companies House. Branding, including logo and website, were developed in readiness to take over the catering at each school from April 2015.
Reasons for Change
Before ‘Food Counts’, each school had entered into an annual service level agreement with LBC to provide catering services. LBC:
maintained and operated the kitchens
recruited and employed the staff within these kitchens
developed the menus
determined ingredients used, with many either frozen or in packets
received all funding/grants related to school meals
Schools themselves had very little control over their own kitchens and the catering provided to their pupils, we began to wonder if we could do better.
The main issues were:
we wanted to use fresh, local produce wherever possible and choose better suppliers
more control over meal costs
Transition from LBC buyback to ‘Food Counts’
It became apparent that there was an issue with the four Heads being directors – albeit non-executive, this was deemed to be in conflict with their employment with LBC. Therefore, the decision was made to dissolve the company whilst retaining the name and ethos of Food Counts.
In January 2015 Mark Passarelli was employed as the Food Counts Catering Manager to oversee all four kitchens, and to ensure that all legal requirements were met and new menu’s developed. Mark is a hugely experienced chef who also had corporate catering experience, and was looking for a new professional challenge! Once everything was in place, ‘Food Counts’ was launched in April 2015.
3 Years on………..
As we have now completed our first year we are all proud of the changes that have been brought about by introducing ‘Food Counts’:
all of our ingredients are fresh wherever possible, not frozen or packet
local suppliers are used for meat, fruit and vegetables
we have been able to invest in the kitchen itself, installing equipment which is newer and more modern, saving time for our catering staff which helps them to feel valued
new dining tables, crockery and cutlery are of a higher quality
we can tailor our menus to suit pupils needs at each school and respond quickly if a particular dish is unpopular
modern uniforms make our catering staff look like the team they are
per meal budget increased by over 60%, from 52p to 85p
‘Food Counts’ schools are less expensive than other maintained schools as they set their own budgets.
People working within school catering have contacted Food Counts directly to ask if there are any vacancies in our school kitchens because they believe in the ethos of ‘Food Counts’!
Christmas lunch saw us serve slices of turkey crown, carved in view of the pupils by Mr Passarelli! In previous years the kitchen served frozen preformed turkey meat.
More staff employed at some of the schools, and more schools asking to join us!
We now have full control over our suppliers, even knowing which farms all of our meat products originate from!
Mark Passarelli has been actively involved with our School Council, listening to their views on the new menus. Children also had the opportunity to use chopsticks when a Chinese day was held, with Mark ‘live’ cooking noodles during service!
St Georges day was celebrated with a Full English breakfast, spotted dick and custard served for dessert.
We are now able to offer staff a free lunch every day, and staff sit with the children in the dining hall to each lunch.
Dedicated Catering Manager servicing all 4 school kitchens which gave the schools flexibility needed to cater for different ethnic groups.
Tailored menu’s at each school
Parents evening taster session showcasing the food offer at Downside which proved to be popular and effective.
End of year school picnic for almost 1000 children.
Chinese theme day with the children using chopsticks
Special Eid lunch celebrating the end of the fasting.
At Beech Hill…
VE day celebration event with a picnic for 920 children.
Bake off cake competition, a great success with 370 entries from all year groups, 3 winners and the cakes replicated by the Kitchen team
A week of Olympic themed menus finishing with a Brazilian hot food street party for 900 children.
Pizza in the park for the Yr 6 leavers.
At Pirton Hill…
Regular Theme days.
Yr 4 World food project: Healthy living session with group activities focusing on food labelling
The world of food session with group activities
Wow Event with live cooking finishing with a team competition.
Hospitality offer improved and standardised at all schools.
Healthy option pack lunches available at all schools
Pop ups purchased to promote the Food counts vision and values.
In the Community
Food Counts now supplies Noah Enterprises with soup for their kitchens, free of charge.
Here at Ferrars we now average around 170 meals per day and 225 on Fridays. 2015-2016 saw our kitchen staff deliver 32800 meals, a 13% increase on 2014-2015. We now feed 51% of our children, compared to 38% previously and 41% nationally.
Our income for the year was £100,214 (inc £48000 previously paid to the LA). Our expenditure was £92,048 which meant that we spent £8168 less than the previous year.
However, when taking into consideration the additional one-off expenditure that FJS had on uniforms for staff, tables, cutlery, plates and bowls and additional kitchen equipment, a saving of over £15000 would now be expected in year 2.
Within the Food Counts schools, a total of £195,000 was saved in the first year.
Taking into consideration initial one-off expenditure, and assuming that Government funding for UIFSM continues, we would expect a saving of around £230,000pa in year 2, and a total saving of £1.1m by the end of year 5. Most of this saving will be reinvested into the kitchens and employment of extra staff.