Sponsored by Bunzl Catering and Hospitality Division
At every step of the way, the focus is on ensuring full traceability of all raw ingredients from field to fork for the 301 primary schools, 17 secondary schools and two civic sites the team serves across Surrey. Good animal welfare, avoidance of endangered species and ethical and sustainable sourcing are all important considerations, with assurance standards and audits in place.
Surrey Council's commitment is highlighted in a series of food boards, marketed under its primary school Let's Eat brand, to inform catering teams, teachers, parents and pupils about the origins of the food. Genetically modified food, mechanically removed meat, trans fats and undesirable additives, flavourings and colourings are banned.
While quality is key, Surrey also procures efficiently through an online ordering system created by Pelican. Regular meetings with suppliers at the point that menu changes are being devised ensure appropriate products are ordered, with minimal waste.
A total of £147,000 was saved on the food bill in 2016, and £45,000 so far this year, at a time when meal numbers are rising. All savings have been re-invested, in particular to procure more organic produce. Currently, all minced beef, pork sausage, pork meatballs, beefburgers and milk are organic.
The county was one of the first to achieve the Soil Association's bronze award for Food for Life Served Here, which was upgraded in 2015 to a gold award. It also has Red Tractor and Marine Stewardship Council accreditation, and the Good Egg Award.
Spot checks on ingredients and products are undertaken, with samples of food collected in unannounced visits to kitchens sent off for independent analysis to ensure it meets nutritional and allergen content specifications.
To date, no anomalies have been found. Pupils, teachers and other customers reap the benefits of a procurement team always on the lookout for new and exciting flavours and food concepts through educational visits to suppliers and trade shows and by undertaking food safaris to London and beyond.
What the judges said
"The focus by Surrey County Council on a set of goals including sustainability, organic and provenance is impressive, as is the passion and pride for the job in hand."
Peter Ducker, chief executive, Institute of Hospitality
"The positive impact Surrey has had on the school catering sector could be a case study for other councils and caterers."
Vishal Joneja, Partners in Purchasing
"Surrey has a highly professional approach to procurement, with a strong customer-led focus."
Chris Durant, the Litmus Partnership
"The team has delivered and sustained both growth and great savings. I was particularly impressed with the collaborative approach to working with each supplier."
David Persaud, Soil Association
"Surrey shows a passionate approach to procurement, which involves collaboration, intelligent thinking and a drive to deliver success for all parties, clients and customers."
Jonathan Williams, CH&Co
Surrey County Council
2016 CH&Co Group
2014 Compass Group