Kirklees Council’s School Catering Team, which has over 900 staff and provides over 35,000 meals per day to 165 primary and secondary schools across the district, has been recognised for its efforts to drive inclusion and reduce its environmental impact.

On Friday June 24, the council’s School Catering Team was highly commended in the Best Council Services category at the MJ Awards, which recognise excellence and innovation in council service delivery across the country.

Working with pupils, parents and school staff, the team redesigned menus in high schools to create five unique food court experiences that offer a variety of nutritionally balanced high-street food options.

Primary schools worked in partnership with change4life and developed a Sugar Smart campaign a range of low sugar and sugar free recipes to enhance children’s health and well-being and reduce the risk of childhood obesity as well as providing salad bars and themed days.

Inclusion was a key driver behind these changes, with pupils on free school meals having access to all menus at no additional cost. All children in reception, year 1 and 2 are illegible for free school meals if they are in a government-funded school.

The School Catering team have also worked closely with schools to adapt meals to meet the needs of local communities, including providing over 1,600 special diet meals every day and making sure staff are trained to cater for pupils with food allergies and intolerances.

The team have lowered their environmental impact by providing schools with 20,000 reusable crockery, trialling refill facilities for reusable cups and bottles, replacing plastic cutlery with wooden cutlery, and only providing water bottles that are 100% recyclable, and introduced meal selector reducing food waste production.

These efforts to minimise food waste and reduce packaging and single use items have contributed significantly to the council’s objective to make Kirklees net zero by 2038.

Clr Carole Pattison, Cabinet member for learning, aspiration and communities, said: “We place children at the heart of everything that we do in our schools, and I am proud to see the dedication and hard work of our School Catering Team recognised at these competitive national awards.

Giving children and teenagers the best possible educational experience, tackling the climate emergency, and driving inclusion are key objectives for the council.

Our school caterers play a key part in creating an environment beneficial to pupils’ health and wellbeing, and educational achievements.”