This year marked 30 years since the formation of LACA – the School Food People – and during that time the organisation has worked hard to promote the benefits, values and nutritional factors in today’s school food.
During National School Meals Week (NSMW) 2019, the 30th anniversary milestone was marked and LACA had a menu of activities that offered everyone in education catering the opportunity to get involved during the week and in some cases beyond.
LACA took NSMW back ‘on the road’ with the Taste for Yourself’ tour. During the campaign, all ten LACA regions were visited, and parents, journalists, dignitaries and the public at large were encouraged to taste modern day school food for themselves.
At each stop a different message was highlighted; for example, school caterers adapting menus for the increase in vegan diets, the move towards the use of certified sustainable palm oil, the importance of dairy in the school meals menu, how the industry supports local farmers and the local economy and, of course, how the industry is working extremely hard to ensure pupils with food allergies can be safely catered for in school.
The combined messaging painted a very positive picture about the school meals industry. In summary, the tour highlighted some of the less known facts about school food, tackled outdated perceptions and demonstrated to the widest possible audience just how good today’s school meals really are.
‘Taste for Yourself’ was a school-based initiative to encourage non or occasional users of the school meals service, to see for themselves just how good today’s school meals are. For older pupils, often the barrier is misconceptions and LACA were keen to make sure pupils know what variety and choice is on offer to them. Resources were made available in English and Welsh for schools to promote ‘Taste for Yourself’ during NSMW (and beyond) and were free to download from the resources page. Many school caterers also ran Taste for Yourself themed lunches.
During NSMW, LACA chair Stephen Forster also launched the ‘Move it with LACA’ campaign, which is tied in with the ‘daily mile’ a popular activity in many schools. LACA’s goal is to encourage pupils to walk a combined 1m miles over the next 12 months – more details will be available on the LACA website as the initiative unfolds. Stephen took the lead by walking a mile with pupils at his local school, where he is a governor. Alan Mak, Conservative Party PPC for Havant, helped with the wider launch when visiting Park Community School, base for SCOTY winner Steven Cross.
Many caterers also took the step to invite an MP to lunch during NSMW. LACA encourage this, especially when this year’s main theme was ‘Taste for Yourself’. It is important MP’s know just how good today’s school food is and how important it is in terms of health and wellbeing, for children to have a nutritious, two course lunch in the middle of the school day. Many schools also invited local politicians and dignitaries e.g. the local mayor, to join them for lunch and put across the important messages about school meals.
During NSWM, Roast Dinner Day was also celebrated. On Wednesday 13th November, people of different generations got together over one of the nation’s favourite meals; the great roast dinner! Roast Dinner Day 2019 is the first event in the calendar of the newly launched Food for Life Get Togethers programme. Funded by a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund, Food for Life Get Togethers uses the power of good food to bring people of different generations together. The focus is on making people happier and healthier using good food, bringing communities together, and promoting a healthy relationship with food for kids.
To mark its 30th anniversary, LACA also ran a #30 School Meals Heroes campaign where weekly, LACA paid tribute to many of the heroes of the education catering industry. As each week passed, another piece of the jigsaw was completed, with the final jigsaw demonstrating the broad range of individuals that contribute to make LACA the voice of the industry.
“There is no doubt that LACA’s NSMW goes from strength to strength with more and more members participating each year and many embracing a number of the activities on offer,” says Neil Porter, LACA chair of events. “It was also rewarding to see the enthusiasm in so many of the regions (despite the at times horrendous weather conditions) when the tour arrived. It was also good to see so many parliamentary candidates and local dignitaries attending our events, keeping school meals high on the political agenda.
“Every year we say to ourselves ‘how are we going to follow that?’ but every year we do and LACA will continue to work hard to make sure NSMW continues to be such a strong platform for great school lunch messages,” Porter concludes.