National School Meals Week (NSMW) 2016
So what happened in 2016?
As in previous years, we tried to strike a balance between planning/running events that the NSMW Team and LACA members work together on to create national coverage and providing ideas and resources for members to embrace and run themselves so as to create local interest for our dynamic industry.
NSMW 2016 ran during the first week in November, this usually being the first week after half term – although we know this year it clashes with a small number of Local Authority holidays, which run a slightly later half term.
As in 2015, the overriding theme for 2016 is #schoolmealsshoutout, as we encourage school caterers to not only get involved in activities but to ‘shout out’ about what they are doing, whether via Twitter, sending in articles or asking for press support.
New website launch
The NSMW website was relaunched at the Main Event, receiving a lot of positive support. It’s easy to navigate and its colour scheme is being used as a template for this year’s NSMW activity.
To enable Caterers to support NSMW, lots of new resources were created and accessible from the website, including popular favourites and new ideas, such as the Spaghetti Challenge and the Great School Lunch Bake Off. In addition, the NSMW website is also the home of numerous Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM) resources, Change for Life resources and much more – certainly worth a visit all year round.
Host a School Chef goes from strength to strength
A well supported activity which is now coming of age and happens throughout the year. An open invitation is made to school chefs who may want to spend a day in a different environment, it may be a Michelin star restaurant, a sports stadium, or a 5* hotel; the NSMW team will make arrangements for the caterer and the visit goes ahead. Every school caterer visit to date has proved to be a great success, not only have they all had a fantastic day out, we have been able to encourage the press to the venues to see school caterers show off their skills and thereby continue to address any negative/ outdated perceptions some people still hold today.
During NSMW 2016, we placed 2 School Caterers in the House of Commons, 8 at the Senedd (Welsh Assembly Building) and many more in such venues as the 5 Star Grosvenor Hotel (Chester), Alyn Williams at the Westbury (Mayfair), Royal Garden Hotel (Kensington), Yorebridge House (Bainbridge) and Purnell’s (Birmingham), signature restaurant of Michelin star chef Glynn Purnell.
A great example of a successful ‘Host a Chef’ visit is Purnell’s, where Chrissy Jackson from Birmingham Cityserve spent a day with Glynn.
What’s more, the BBC, when advised of the initiative, was delighted to feature LACA’s activities in a piece that was aired on BBC Midlands Today evening news programmes. The TV crew spent a day with Chrissy in her school interviewing the children and the following day in the restaurant to complete the filming.
Glynn, who hosted Saturday Kitchen Live the week after NSMW and has a new six week series, The Secret Chef starting on ITV in early 2017, is also a rather celebrated author and gave Chrissy signed copies of his two most recent publications ‘Cracking Yolks and Pig Tales’ and ‘Rib Ticklers and Choux Ins’. The Rib Ticklers book was only released on 15th September.
The NSMW website contains a number of short videos and features some great school meals recipes. We asked school caterers to send in their pictures of these or other recipes they have cooked themselves and send in a selfie – hence cookeditmyselfie – we have received hundreds. The best photo will receive marketing materials for their school to the value of £500.00.
Always popular with school caterers and pupils alike, this year the ‘Spaghetti Challenge’ was the main resource downloaded from the site. The challenge took place the length and breadth of the country, Cambridgeshire Catering Services excelling in the challenge.
Serving school food at the Welsh Assembly (20th September)
The LACA Wales Committee and the NSMW team served school food at the Pierhead Building in Cardiff. The menu, prepared by 3 Welsh Authorities, included Pasta Bolognaise, Chicken Tikka, Quiche & Salads, Jam Roly Poly, Oat Cookies and Welsh Cakes. Under the heading “School food in Wales just keeps getting better” a visual display as well as a taste sensation was made available to invited Welsh Assembly members and the public at large. A 24 page recipe book was produced showcasing the very best of Welsh School Food. A camera crew was on hand and a video of the event is available to view at www.nsmw.org.uk
The event was sponsored by Lesley Griffiths AM for Wrexham and was very well supported by virtually a quarter of the Members of the Welsh Assembly, including The Leader of the House and Chief Whip, the Minister for Social Services and Public Health and the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Local Affairs. The Welsh Government’s Food in Schools Policy Officer, Charlotte Maurer, also attended and is looking to forge closer links with the LACA Wales committee as a result.
The day was an unqualified success with over 300 members of the public coming through the doors to enjoy the excellent food on offer and such was the interest that the Pierhead staff had to put the ‘House Full’ signs up for Health and Safety reasons, plus enlist the help of two local police officers to man the doors.
Serving school food at Westminster (2nd November)
LACA once more returned to the Palace of Westminster to showcase school meals. With a number of LA caters and private contractors in support, an exciting and diverse menu had been created, tested and served, including Creamy Chicken Korma, Lamb and Potato Moussaka, Stilton and Broccoli Flan, Vegetable Stuffed Burritos, Various Breads and Salads plus, for dessert, Chocolate Cherry Potato Cake, Cucumber & Lemon Sponge Pudding, Moroccan Date Pudding and Fruit Carvings.
School Food APPG Chair Mrs Sharon Hodgson MP and APPG Vice Chair Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods MP were sponsors for the event and all Members of both Houses were invited.
The event went well, despite having a nightmare with the food being held up when en route - of all the vans on all the days to be stopped by police, it had to be the van with the food in!!!! However with some great teamwork, it was soon ferried up the stairs and into the display cabinets. The food was served by the current and previous SCOTY winners.
There was a good turn-out on the day with 34 MPs from Labour, Conservatives and the SNP, as well as 3 members of the House Lords. Out of the MPs, 6 were members of the Labour shadow front bench, 2 members of the education select committee and the deputy speaker. Other MPs were represented by their aides. LACA will follow up where appropriate with ongoing communication with the country’s ‘decision makers’. In addition a number of MP’s who couldn’t attend sent their apologies and the NSMW team is sending copies of the information that was in the goody bags
Thanks for your support
Events like the Pierhead and serving food at the House of Commons are only made possible thanks to the dedication and hard work of LACA members, caterers and suppliers. Thanks to everyone who helped make 2016 a resounding success.
Spreading the good news and the use of the press, TV, radio and social media
As this article is being completed, it is too early to know the number of newspapers NSMW will feature in, but we do know of many. As well as being featured on TV once again, social media was also widely used. The number of followers for @NSMW has increased by 400% over the past 18 months; this will only continue by keeping the food interesting, so please use Twitter to promote the many great things you are doing all year round.
For more information on NSMW 2016 go to:
Twitter: @NSMW #schoolmealsshoutout #cookeditmyselfie