6 - 15 Nov '19

School Meals Today and in the Future

This podcast was recorded at the LACA Main Event 2019 and looks at school catering today and in the future. This is an annual event which is also the host for the final of McDougalls Young Baking Team of the Year 2019. It's the place to be for the latest inspiration and trends in school meals. 

The podcast begins with the chair, Michael Hales, who revealed that it's the biggest and best LACA Main Event with the highest number of delegates and visitors ever. This year also sees the 30th anniversary of the LACA conference so there is plenty to celebrate. Michael gave a taster of some of the speakers at the event which included Prue Leith. As part of the podcast, Michael reveals what he's been focusing on as chair. This includes Universal Infant Free School Meals and the funding of the cost per meal from the Government. As we look to the future, we asked Michael what's in-store for school meals. 

Karen spoke to Lindsay Graham, who has been going to LACA for many years, to find out what she was looking forward to learning about, as well as the burning issues she believes are affecting the sector right now. Lindsay talked about the changes she has seen in the last 15 years and how school meals have improved for young people. She also talks about the challenges the industry is facing including the lack of monitoring of standards. Lindsay believes we need to be thinking about how we engage with young people and educating them about food and the potential of careers in hospitality. It was inspiring to hear about the work that Lindsay has been doing to explore how to combat hunger including breakfast, weekend and supper provision which many other countries are doing very well at. 

Inside the exhibition, we visited the Brakes stand where we were fortunate enough to catch a few minutes with Cathy Amos who told us what visitors are interested in the moment, especially with the rise in vegetarian and vegan. We asked Cathy to share what she thought would be the focus for school meals over the next 12 months. 

We stopped Pat Fellows in the corridor of the hotel to find out her thoughts on how school meals have changed. Pat talked about her hopes for the future and how she would love to see free school meals extended into Key Stage 2. 

Jo Wotten talked about what it's like to be a school chef at the moment. Whilst it's getting harder, Jo feels it's an exciting time. One thing Jo would love to see is for school chefs to no longer be seen as dinner ladies and and for people to see this as a true profession. 

The exhibition was absolutely packed but we managed to speak to Nicola at ParentPay who believes the conference is the place to be to see what's happening with technology as well as meet up with clients and prospects. ParentPay has seen a massive shift in the industry especially when it comes to online payments with it becoming so much more the norm.

We learnt more about National School Meals Week (NSMW) and the 30 heroes campaign which puts the spotlight on influential people within the industry. Organiser, Karen also revealed the plans for the NSMW tour this year. 

It was lovely to chat to all the pupils and school leaders, which included teachers and school chefs, who took part in the McDougalls Young Baking Team of the Year. You will feel so inspired hearing about the local sourcing that children have been doing as they planned their menus. It was great to hear about the teamwork that has been going on and the amount of work that goes into practising. We loved hearing the reasons for schools entering, especially when it comes to seeing the children's confidence grow.

Throughout the competition, we spoke to the children to find out how the bake-off was going, as well as revealing that winning moment and what it meant to the young people. Karen also caught up with some of the judges which included Andrew Green from the Craft Guild of Chefs who loved the passion from the young people. He said the future of the industry will flourish with these young stars. Another of the judges, Professor Tanya Byron also told us how it was the best working day she has had this year with extroadinary results from the competitors. She also explored how and why the competition is helping to develop confidence in young people.

Woodlands Primary School was revealed as the winner and we couldn't beat that moment we first interviewed the winning pupils. It was the highest score ever of the competition with 194/200.

The end of the day was a real highlight for the Premier Foods team when at the LACA Awards for Excellence, McDougalls Young Baking Team of the Year won the first ever Arnold Fewell Award which goes to someone who has promoted the enjoyment and education around school food and cooking. Tissues were needed by the team who were so honoured to win the Arnold Memorial Award. 

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