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From the outset of its launch in April 2015, CATERed has put children at the centre of everything it does, with the focus firmly on making food fun.
The success of the initiative stems from the fact that as well as schools working in an open and transparent manner by sharing budgets and resources, those involved work with the wider community to dispel what is often a poor misconception about school meals.
CATERed has attended Plymouth's annual food shows - Flavour Fest and the Sea Food Festival - where staff have held children engagement activities involving making fresh fruit smoothies, dips, burgers and mackerel pÁ¢té made from locally caught fish.
Such events provide a platform to discuss the meals being served in schools with the people who matter the most: the children and their parents.
Interaction with pupils is vital, whether it is through cookery sessions in schools or taster sessions, which provide necessary customer feedback. Equally, the staff are kept up to date with the company's developments through a newsletter, meetings, workshops and quizzes.
It is important that everyone understands the ethos of CATERed, which was created to ensure that all children, regardless of background, get the same high-quality lunchtime experience. Only the best-quality products are purchased and staff are paid a living wage.
Innovative marketing of the CATERed brand is personalised by the characters of Eddy Stone (think Plymouth lighthouse) and his sister Cate, who act as ambassadors for the service. Eddy and Cate are used to promote theme days, which tend to result in a 5% uptake and appear on CATERed's social media to engage with parents and the community.
The company has its own bespoke CATERed jingle on the local station, Radio Plymouth, to inform a wider audience of special events. Perhaps most forward-thinking of all is Ed's City Wide Food Panel, which brings together children from various schools at City College to act as food directors to shape the menu choices across the company. To become a food director, pupils have to submit 50 words on why they should be appointed to the panel. Suppliers demonstrate ingredients, while the food directors sample products and help design a bespoke burger for the menu.
CATERed is also involved in the Cities of Service volunteering project, which supports volunteers to grow fruit and vegetables, as well as distributing to those in need and assisting them in preparing and cooking the produce. The judges applauded CATERed for innovatively demonstrating collaborative working to achieve an improved service and excellent quality of food, with the children always at the heart of everything it does.
What the judges said
"CATERed's social involvement and engagement is outstanding. We loved how the company has creatively engaged its customers and promoted the benefits of a good diet."
Lin Dickens, marketing director, Bartlett Mitchell
"I love the involvement of the schools, students, parents and suppliers in this unique co-operative. The marketing is a superb way to get the message across about nutrition and fresh, local produce."
Anne Pierce, chief executive, Springboard
Hampshire County Council Catering Services
2017 ISS Facility Services Education
2015 Holroyd Howe
2014 ISS Facility Services Education
2013 Elior UK
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