In Scotland, the Gold Food for Life Catering Mark is supported and promoted by Soil Association Scotland as part of its Food for Life campaign. This campaign aims to transform the food we eat, enabling everyone in Scotland to enjoy a more sustainable diet based on seasonal, local and organic food.
The Food for Life Catering Mark is crucial to delivering this transformation of food culture. It motivates and enables public and private sector caterers to improve the quality and the sustainability of the meals they produce. It has straightforward targets for Bronze, Silver and Gold awards based around using local, unprocessed and organic ingredients.
To achieve a Gold Award, the school was required to provide evidence of its use of local and seasonal produce as well as demonstrating it was a hub for a good food culture in the local community. To do this, the school actively involved parents and community groups in the growing and cooking of the meals.
Uniquely, it is the final year pupils at the Edinburgh Rudolf Steiner School who prepare the lunches for the rest of the student body with support from their parents and Form Teacher. Running the school canteen is a business which allows pupils to learn teamwork, marketing, budgeting and organisational skills as well as food provenance. Pupil involvement helps to emphasise the importance of sourcing quality, local and organic ingredients and is built into the school’s curriculum.
Alistair Pugh, Form Teacher at the Edinburgh Rudolf Steiner School said: “When we started working towards this prestigious award, we adopted a whole school approach. We involved our parents, our local suppliers and our pupils to determine how the menu would evolve. By simplifying what we prepared each day, we have been able to ensure that everything, where possible, is locally sourced, organic and fresh.
“As a result, we have reduced cost, wastage and food miles while providing an innovative educational experience for our pupils. Our final year pupils run the canteen as a business and put any profits that they make at the end of the school year towards a cultural trip to Europe. This year we were fortunate to tour Russia and Ukraine. Our Class 8 pupils (13 & 14 year olds) also prepare pizzas for sale once a week as a fundraising exercise.
“We would encourage other schools to pursue a Food for Life award as it supports not only the benefits of healthy eating but also food education for the whole school community including pupils, parents and teachers. For example, gardening is part of our curriculum and our pupils grow their own organic vegetables in the school grounds which are used where appropriate as part of the seasonal menu. In addition, they volunteer at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital’s Community Garden and enjoy a varied programme of farm-based activities, food preparation and cooking classes throughout the year.
Open Tours of the school are on 1st Friday of each month and the school welcomes anyone interested in finding out more about Steiner education to come along and join them.
Dr Eleanor Logan, Head of Soil Association Scotland added: “We are delighted that the Edinburgh Rudolf Steiner School has achieved a Gold Food for Life Catering Mark. Their experience shows us how we can make sensible changes to our diets which enable us to have a diet which is healthier, has less food miles attached to it, has organically produced food at its heart and is affordable. It proves in practice that organic does not cost the earth”
Soil Association Awards
• Meals contain no undesirable food additives or hydrogenated fats
• 75% of dishes are freshly prepared
• Meat meets UK welfare standards and eggs are from cage free hens
• Menus are seasonal
• Well trained catering staff are in situ
• No GM ingredients are used
Silver (in addition to Bronze criteria)
• A range of local, organic and fair trade food is served
• High welfare chicken, eggs and pork products are served (at least Freedom Food or free range - equalling the baseline commitment made by leading supermarkets)
• No fish is served from the Marine Conservation Society 'fish to avoid' list
• Information is on display about where the food has come from
Gold (in addition to Bronze and Silver criteria)
• At least 30% of ingredients are organic or Marine Stewardship Council certified
• At least 50% of ingredients are locally sourced
• Organic meat, dairy products or eggs are served as the highest welfare standard
• Non-meat dishes are being promoted as part of a balanced, climate-friendly diet
Food for Life has been formally adopted by Highland Council (Bronze award holder) and East Ayrshire Council (Gold Award Holder) as the model for healthy and sustainable school meals. Between them, Highland Council (Scotland’s largest public catering service) and East Ayrshire Council serve over 13,500 Food for Life school meals per day at over 200 sites.
Food for Life Catering Mark also works with any private sector caterers. Notable Scottish award holders include Celtic Football Club (Gold Award) and Cawdor Castle (Gold Award)