Cabinet Secretary, Fergus Ewing, visited Nether Robertland Primary School at Stewarton, Kilmarnock to present East Ayrshire Council’s 10th gold Food for Life Served Here Award, recognising the Council’s ongoing commitment to local and sustainable school meals.
This is the 10th consecutive year that the Council has earned the award, making it the longest serving Gold Food for Life Served Here award holders in the UK.
East Ayrshire Council has been successful in sourcing Scottish produce from local farmers, growers and food businesses to make 1,100,000 Food for Life Served Here awarded school meals every year.
This local initiative is part of the independently certified UK- wide Food for Life Served Here programme, a flagship scheme of the Soil Association. In Scotland, the programme certifies almost 22 million meals annually in nurseries, schools, universities, work places, community lunch clubs, care homes, leisure centres and visitor attractions. This work is delivered by Soil Association Scotland, with Scottish Government funding.
The Cabinet Secretary also praised all eleven Scottish local authorities that have successfully achieved the Food for Life Served award and urges others to join this good food movement.
Mr Ewing said: “I am delighted to present East Ayrshire Council’s 10th successive ‘Gold’ Food for Life Award and recognise the Council’s ongoing commitment to local and sustainable school meals and in doing so being the only local authority in the UK to have achieved such prestigious recognition.
“This event, whilst celebrating East Ayrshire Council’s achievement, also marks the Scottish Government’s commitment to the award. We recently announced £1.2 million to expand Food for Life Scotland as part of a drive to ensure that more and more Scottish produce is served in our schools. Serving fresh, healthy, sustainable public meals can not only make a real difference to our nation’s health, but can play a key role in making Scotland the Good Food Nation we want ourselves to be and it is our hope that other councils follow suit.”
East Ayrshire Council Leader Councillor Douglas Reid said: “I’m delighted we are recognised nationally as the longest continuous holders of the Soil Association’s Food for Life Scotland Award.
“This prestigious accolade underpins everything we believe in – and work towards – when it comes to sourcing the ingredients for our school meals.
“East Ayrshire and the surrounding area offers a wonderful and diverse supply of produce and it gives me great pleasure that we can support our local producers and farmers, while ensuring our young people benefit from a wide choice of healthy, nutritious and high quality meals.”
Andrew Kennedy, head of facilities and property management for East Ayrshire Council said: “The Food for Life approach is the only standard which tells the whole ‘farm to fork’ story. For our part, we wanted to see how sustainable we could make a school meal.
“Our vision was to provide school meals to pupils using a higher proportion of unprocessed, local ingredients with a greater emphasis on animal welfare and organic standards. Added to this, using fresh food reduces packaging and a switch to organic reduces the environmental impact of school meals.”
“Ayrshire is a farming area so we thought that there must be producers nearby who could supply what we needed.
“When we started the initiative in 2004, we sourced fruit and vegetables from an East Ayrshire organic farm, eggs from a local free-range egg supplier and artisan cheese from another local producer. We worked with a fish supplier from Ayrshire and we sourced our dried goods from Greencity Wholefoods, a worker’s co-operative in Glasgow. When we saw the success in the school, we knew we had to look at how to scale it all up.”
Commenting on Food for Life Scotland, Aoife Behan, Policy Manager at Soil Association said:
“The procurement of Scottish food is sometimes viewed as an expensive option; this is absolutely not the case. We believe that all Scottish schools should be beacons of good food, and East Ayrshire Council’s commitment to Food for Life Served Here shows that it can be done. Not only is it financially achievable, it has a positive impact on the local economy, the quality of school meals and the health of children; it also helps local authorities deliver on their sustainable procurement duties.
“East Ayrshire wanted to go beyond taking a purely commercial approach to school meals, by taking serious account of the health, environmental, economic and educational benefits of healthy and sustainable food.
“Our aim at Soil Association Scotland is to work with Scottish local authorities and Scottish Government to get more local food on plates in schools – Food for Life Served Here can make that happen.”
Soil Association Scotland will increase their support of local authorities to implement their own local, value-focused, Food for Life programmes.