School meals team best in country 

award winners
Bolton Council’s school meals team are presented with the award.

Bolton Council has scooped a national award in the school meals’ industry equivalent of the Oscars.

The authority’s school meals team saw off UK-wide competition to be crowned the Catering Business of the Year 2010 in the Awards for Excellence run by the Local Authority Caterers' Association (LACA).

The judges were impressed by meal uptake and the promotions that have helped the council achieve its results; the team’s engagement with pupils through innovative menus and the push to buy locally.

National figures announced last week show more than half of all pupils in Bolton are tucking into a healthy, tasty school meal.

Children in 96 primary schools in Bolton have been enjoying meals for £1 since January, following successful pilots since 2008 across two year groups. School dinners usually cost £1.80 in primary schools and secondary school pupils benefit from value for money meal deals.

The team was also praised for the local sourcing of food with around 80 per cent of ingredients for school dinners coming from suppliers living in the area, compared with the national figure of 27 per cent.

Creative menus in Bolton’s schools are developed with input from pupils. Children can enjoy anything from a chicken biryani or homemade lamb pie to a light and fluffy omelette.

Bolton Council’s Executive Member for Environmental Services Councillor Akhtar Zaman said: "I'd like to congratulate the whole team on their success. This is a fantastic achievement which recognises all the work that has gone into improving the quality of school meals.
“The aim of all of our discounted meal promotions was to encourage more children to enjoy a healthy meal for a reasonable price. What’s great is our staff are now hearing things from parents like ‘we’ve been buying different foods’ since their child started having school meals.
“And children are enjoying the variety of food on offer which again is down to the hard work the team put in to developing imaginative menus.”

National figures released last week show in the academic year 09/10 53.3 per cent of primary school children are opting for a school meal, compared to the national average of 41.4 per cent. In secondary schools, 57.8 per cent are opting for school dinners, a figure far greater than the national average of 35 per cent.

Bolton beat Eden Catering and Hertfordshire Catering to scoop the top prize.

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Salma Nakhuda
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