Orkney Islands Council’s achievement in winning a prestigious award for school meals during a pandemic should encourage other local authorities to follow our example, according to the Scottish Government’s Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, Ben Macpherson MSP.
During a virtual event to congratulate the Council on winning the Soil Association Scotland Bronze Food for Life Served Here Award, Mr Macpherson said Orkney’s success should inspire the remainder of local authorities to take up the challenge.
He commented: “First of all I want to emphasise to Orkney Islands Council our thanks from the Scottish Government for your participation in the Food for Life programme and also to acknowledge the efforts of all frontline catering staff, managers and organisations involved, and other council staff 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 the council serves 1,775 food for life served here meals each day (on a normal day when all schools are open fully), on average - testament to the achievement and enthusiasm of staff.”
Mr Macpherson said we should not underestimate the importance of a healthy school meal.
“It is not just about tackling obesity or the remarkable local produce but also about how do we help in the learning environment and support local economies but also contributing, importantly, in these times with the challenges we face together to a greener environment by reducing carbo emmissions from food miles – I do not think that can be underestimated, particularly in your example.
“The numbers stack up as well. On health benefits research has shown a social return on investment of £4.41 for every £1 invested over three years in the Food for Life approach, so there is real economic benefit, social benefit, individual benefit, community benefit and there is educational benefit. Overall it is a huge achievement, particularly in these times.”
With a strong history of cooking from scratch in local schools, and a commitment to sourcing much of the produce from local suppliers, achieving the Food for Life Served Here Bronze Award has demonstrated the Council’s values and ethos of serving fresh, local and sustainable meals in schools.
The Award recognises councils that are serving school meals which are made from fresh ingredients, use free-range eggs and higher welfare meat, and are free from genetically modified ingredients and undesirable additives.
The Food for Life Scotland programme is run by the Soil Association Scotland and funded by Scottish Government and aims to help school catering staff serve freshly prepared meals made from locally produced ingredients that are healthy and sustainable.
Orkney Islands Council is the 15th local authority in Scotland to achieve the Soil Association’s Food for Life Served Here Award.