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Former Acorn Award-winner Amy Roberts joined contract caterer Holroyd Howe in 2016 as director of nutrition and food development. In the two years since joining, the company, which specialises in independent schools and colleges, has developed a number of programmes to promote healthy meal choices and educate students about nutrition.
This is an aim also achieved by the classroom sessions delivered by Holroyd Howe's nutritionist. Lessons on more than 15 topics are available, including sports nutrition, leading healthier lifestyles and portion sizes. The sessions have proved so popular that many schools have chosen to hold regular nutrition sessions every term, equating to 12,000 pupils receiving nutrition education from Holroyd Howe in the last 21 months.
The healthy eating champion promoted initiatives to ensure chefs continue their nutritional training throughout their careers, as well as meeting with school sports directors to provide guidance on supporting pupils competing for county or country to perform at their best.
Roberts' 'Half Measures' initiative was designed to reduce sugar in school menus by 50% and sugar consumption to just 5% of pupils' energy intake. By the end of year one, this removed an average of 9g of sugar per dessert recipe - nearly two teaspoons per portion. The scheme received widespread coverage in the education press and has seen Roberts speak at the Food Matters Live conference.
To encourage pupils to try new foods, she created a 'Food Explorers' initiative using tasting tables to introduce pupils to different and less commonplace foods by preparing the food in a variety of ways. For example, winter kale might be available as kale crisps, a smoothie or quiche. The chefs ask pupils to identify the key ingredient and taste the various offerings before telling them where it comes from and describing the nutritional benefits. Reward stickers are available for younger pupils to recognise their efforts in trying new foods.
She ensures schemes are communicated to teams by developing a Food File platform, which includes a live tasting and demonstration events held at several locations around the UK. Events are filmed and shared via YouTube as well as being supplemented by printed materials, including recipes and guidelines.
Roberts has been a lead contact with the Institute for Food Brain and Behaviour, has worked with the Nutritionists in Industry and contributed to the new food and nutrition GCSE.
She has been described as "pivotal" in sales presentations and contributed to the winning of £10m of new business in the last 12 months. But, most importantly, she ensures Holroyd Howe is able to educate its customer, the pupils, to make healthy and informed choices that will help them lead a healthy lifestyle long after their school years.
What the judges said
"Anyone that teaches future generations about good food choices is a winner in my book."
Mark Philpott, owner and managing director, Vacherin
"Roberts demonstrates a variety of different initiatives towards healthy eating."
Wan Mak, head of nutrition and dietetics, Sodexo
William Cook Elior UK
Lin Dickens Bartlett Mitchell
Amy Roberts Holroyd Howe
2017 Sophie Murray Sunrise Senior Living
2016 Amanda Ursell and Judy Roberts Charlton House
2015 Kimberley Aplin Sodexo
2014 Kate Martin Brookwood Partnership
2013 Caroline Fry CH&Co
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