Barking and Dagenham Catering Services, managed by London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Council, provides catering for 60 schools, serving 20,000 meals every day.
To achieve the gold award Barking and Dagenham Catering Services had to demonstrate that a significant proportion of the ingredients used are sourced locally or from within the UK, with at least 15% certified as organic.
The caterers also had to show they are being proactive in making healthy eating choices easy in schools, which includes delivering freshly prepared meals, reducing undesirable additives and meeting animal welfare standards.
Leroy Cyrus, catering operations manager, said: "We know that a healthy meal at school can contribute significantly to a child's wellbeing, as well as to their capacity to learn throughout the remainder of the school day. Providing a balanced nutritious lunch in schools has long been our commitment, and I'm thrilled that the passion and hard work of our catering service is being recognised through this top level award. Pupils say how much they enjoy their school meals: their enthusiasm, along with that of our whole catering team, is the driving force that will help us continue delivering award-winning school meals."
Rich Watts, food for life served here manager at the Soil Association, said: "We consume a third of our daily calories outside of the home so the choices made by caterers play an important role in maintaining healthy diets, and that's particularly important in schools where children are learning to make those healthy food choices themselves. When you have a caterer working across such a number of sites, achieving a gold award is a fantastic achievement and the team at Barking and Dagenham have consistently demonstrated a commitment to our highest standard for school meals. With the confirmation in the past few days that Universal Infant Free School Meals will continue for those in their first three years of school, this really is a double celebration."
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