The Food for Life Served Here scheme will soon be launching updated standards to its silver and gold awards. Jen Collins, standards project manager at the Soil Association, explains what this means for caterers.
Caterers will soon have additional options to choose from to achieve the silver or gold Food for Life Served Here award. The Making healthy eating easy standards have been updated, and there will also be two new ways to achieve points in Ethical and environmentally-friendly food: for avoiding, or using more sustainable, palm oil and serving organic or fairly traded drinks.
Full details of the standards changes will be announced in the coming weeks, and follow an extensive consultation which took place in autumn 2016. Since then a detailed benchmarking and pilot exercise has been carried out. The resulting standards provide a wide range of options, with the number of points awarded set according to how difficult each standard is to achieve and the level of impact it delivers.
Commenting on the updated standards, Ian Nutt, head of development at Soil Association’s Food for Life, said: “We are hugely grateful to everyone who took the time to provide us with feedback on the original proposals for updating these standards. We’ve taken your feedback on board and made changes accordingly, so we feel confident that the revised standards are both stretching and achievable, recognising the efforts that so many caterers make to serve healthy food.”
Have the points changed?
The total number of points required to achieve silver remains at 150, with gold still at 300. The thresholds for the Making healthy eating easy category have not changed either – you still need at least 20 points in this area to achieve silver and 50 for gold. There will be 120 points available in Making healthy eating easy and the standards themselves will be more specific to caterers in different sectors. The findings of the pilot exercise give us confidence that the majority of caterers will retain their existing silver or gold award when they move to the updated standards.
Why are these changes being made?
Caterers in the Food for Life Served Here scheme have always been at the forefront of industry best practice. The independent Food for Life Served Here Standards Committee, which sets the standards for the scheme, wanted to ensure that the standards closely align with public health priorities.
It was also important to ensure that caterers who are required to meet national guidelines at bronze, such as in schools and early years, are rewarded for the additional healthy eating steps they take at silver and gold. These updates will make the healthy eating standards more rigorous and more ambitious, yet still offer considerable flexibility to enable caterers to purse their own priorities.
The public health agenda is sharply focussed on tackling obesity and encouraging healthy eating. Under the revised standards, silver and gold award holders will demonstrate best practice for healthy eating in key areas such as the use of salt, sugar and wholemeal options. Caterers will continue to be rewarded for the actions they take to support healthy eating, tackle plate waste and serve less meat, with new steps recognising those who serve additional fruit or vegetables and encourage pupils to make healthier choices.
What else is new?
The new standards to reward caterers for avoiding, or serving more sustainable, palm oil have been introduced in direct response to requests from caterers to recognise the efforts they are making in this important area. Up to 15 fixed points are available for steps taken to use cooking oil, spreads and confectionery or baked goods which avoid the use of palm oil or ensure it comes from more sustainable sources. There will also be additional fixed points available for caterers who serve organic or fairly traded drinks.
When are the changes taking place?
Caterers already in the scheme will have until September 2018 to meet the revised standards, with September school menus expected to comply with the updates. If you would prefer to move to the new standards before then – particularly if you have an inspection taking place – you also have that option. Caterers joining the scheme will be able to choose which set of standards they want to meet for their initial inspection, but will need to ensure that their menus meet the revised standards from September 2018.
Support will be available from your business development manager or certification officer to help ensure you can meet the updated standards while retaining your current silver or gold award. A new sector-specific points calculator, which is much easier to use, will also be launched when the updated standards go live.
How can I find out more?
The revised standards will be published on our website and in updated 2018 Food for Life Served Here handbooks in March. Look out for news of the launch in Food for Life Served Here e-news – and if you don’t receive this important newsletter, please contact Laura Leahy to get added to the circulation list: email@example.com.
There are now over 1.7 million Food for Life Served Here meals served nationally every day, over half of which meet the silver or gold standards.
How can I get involved?
We will be advertising vacancies on the Food for Life Served Here Standards Committee soon. If you are interested in becoming a member, please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are the main changes and when are they happening?
• Updated Making healthy eating easy standards will be easier to understand and more closely aligned with public health priorities.
• Many existing healthy eating standards are retained, such as those rewarding caterers for taking actions to serve less meat or use less salt.
• Revised options have been added for caterers to gain points towards silver or gold, for example by encouraging healthier choices through display and marketing.
• New Ethical and environmentally-friendly food standards to reward caterers who avoid, or use more sustainable, palm oil and who serve organic or fairly traded drinks.