Nottingham City Council’s catering team has won a national accolade for championing environmental issues through school menus.

The authority scooped the ‘Green’ Menu & Marketing Award 2021 at the annual LACA Awards for Excellence, which celebrate the success of caterers providing meals for schoolchildren.

LACA (The School Food People) seeks to recognise how caterers are not only changing their menus and service in response to changing dietary trends, but also what they are doing to communicate this in a ‘positive and educational way’ to both pupils and parents.

The City Council had to demonstrate:

  • How menus have been altered to reduce carbon footprint
  • The marketing strategy created to ‘sell in’ the benefits and changes
  • Educational involvement with partners to further improve their understanding of why such changes are being made
  • The subsequent impact made

The winning entry highlighted the City’s wider pledge to be carbon-neutral by 2028, and set out how all aspects of the catering service have been adapted. This includes the menus, cooking equipment, production, waste, customer engagement, staff training and marketing.

Menus change twice a year and are designed to reflect the diverse nature of Nottingham pupils, are bespoke for each school and have a daily vegetarian option with a weekly non-meat day.

A digital management system is used to record waste data for both the plate and kitchen. This is then used to manage food production and pupils provide feedback to further improve the service.

In partnership with the Council’s Carbon Reduction, Energy and Sustainability division, caterers have used Government Salix funding to support a rolling programme of replacing gas equipment with electric.

Schools, parents and pupils have been engaged through a series of newsletters and posters. Numerous statements and testimonials were received which showed the impact of these programmes and how they have directly influenced pupils’ choices.

Councillor Eunice Campbell-Clark, Portfolio Holder for Schools at Nottingham City Council, said: “I’m really proud of our school catering team for seeing off plenty of excellent national competition to land such a prestigious industry award.

“We understand that a huge part of our ambitious carbon-neutral plans is around engaging the younger generation so they can take forward these changes into the future.

“Pupils are not only choosing to eat healthier, but understanding why this is important as part of wider global climate-change action. “Our pupil suggestion boxes and school council focus groups will provide ongoing feedback and refinement of our menus, so that the gradual move to more vegetarian dishes being chosen by pupils will be achieved.”