Sam Phillips, Operations Director for Chefs in Schools, sets out our position on the recent headlines surrounding the state of school food in the UK, and what we’re doing to change it:

“With recent media attention surrounding poor quality school meals in Southampton, there have been many important conversations about the general quality of school food and the postcode lottery children face. Whilst this story has highlighted several key issues being faced in many schools across the country we can’t forget there is a kitchen team at the heart of the story. 

In many school kitchens, school chefs have little influence over menus, ingredients, suppliers and recipes – without scope for creativity, passion or flair. Their budgets are tight and their autonomy is limited. Yet, when a story breaks about poor quality school food, sometimes kitchen teams can end up taking the brunt of the blame, in a failing system, for what ends up on the plate. Even when stories like this break, and change is clearly required for the benefit of the children, we must remember the people involved and treat them with kindness and respect. We need to make the system work better for them too.

We have a hard working, dedicated workforce feeding our future generation, who care deeply about the children in their care. In our experience, providing training and professional development, plus the freedom to be creative, can transform both standards of food and the sense of enjoyment and satisfaction a school chef has in their role. 

What we saw this week isn’t a reflection of all school kitchens, and having just celebrated International School Meals day, we have seen some excellent examples of what can be achieved in the dining hall, from barbacoa beef tacos, to buttermilk chicken and school-made mango & scotch bonnet hot sauce (apparently the best in London!). With the right training, resources and a quality first mindset, this can be achieved in any school.

As we continue to build our community of chefs at Chefs In Schools, this is a reminder that we need to support everyone in the school kitchen community, to enable them to thrive and serve the generation-powering, nutritious, tasty food we know they can achieve. They can be the best assets in a school, fuelling children and staff, and we need to celebrate them!”