Eden Foodservice is on target to retain the bulk of its school meals contracts in Croydon, despite the council's decision to cease central management of the borough's service.
Following the Government's policy of allowing schools to take responsibility for their own commissioning needs, Croydon Council said in August that it will not be retendering for the central school meals contract when the current contract concludes in April next year.
Eden Foodservice, the specialist school catering division of Rentokil Initial, services the majority of Croydon schools and last year became the first catering firm to be given the Silver accreditation Food for Life catering mark for a group contract by the Soil Association for its work in the borough.
It faced losing a large proportion of its business as a result of the council's move, however managing director Simon James has told Caterer that like a "phoenix from the ashes", much of the service will continue.
"We've so far had the opportunity to meet with 60% of the schools in Croydon and to date we only have one school that is considering another option, and that is only because the numbers concerned there are very small.
"Everybody else is incredibly positive and I am confident that we will retain a significant number of those schools based on what we've done over the past few years. It is a flagship authority in terms of its school meals service."
James said that while they will now have numerous clients rather than one, increased head teacher engagement "post-Jamie Oliver" means that there will be very little impact on the day-to-day running of the service.
However he voiced concerns that other local authorities might follow Croydon's lead and opt out of a central service. "It's a tremendous burden to put on schools on top of everything else. I am hopeful that it is an isolated decision," he added.
By Janie Stamford
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