The Grove was crowned winner at the All Party Parliamentary Group Excellence in School Food Awards, a prestigious award which sees schools across the UK recognised for their excellence, innovation and commitment to feeding kids well.

The school began overhauling its food a year ago, joining forces with our charity to transform the menus, dining experience and food education on offer. The team, lead by Headteacher Hilary Priest, recruited renowned chef Marco Pilloni, who’d previously cooked for the Queen, on TV and in Michelin starred restaurants.

Marco now leads a team of two at the school – the sous chef, and kitchen helper, Anne. Together, they’ve transformed the kitchen taking processed and frozen food off the menu, bringing in fresh, local, seasonal and exciting produce. 

The children eat fresh fish, prepped and breaded in house. Sauces are made by hand. Bread is baked at the school and there’s an ever-changing salad bar offering the likes of celeriac remoulade.

The new ethos has spread outside – the school fundraised for planters and a polytunnel to grow produce onsite and teach children where ingredients come from.

Headteacher Hilary Priest said: “We’re delighted to be recognised at these awards, it’s been a team effort transforming the food but all worthwhile. Before Marco joined us, the children were tired and less receptive to learning after lunch, the economic situation meant that food costs were increasing rapidly, food waste was high and children’s taste palates were small and unadventurous. 

“Now, they’re energised and more ready to learn after lunch, school academic outcomes have risen, while school dinner costs remain unchanged but food quality has increased. Children enjoy lunch and don’t rush it, they’re growing our own produce and they learn culinary skills from Chef Marco.

“Everyone loves the food that the whole school produces together!”

Nerissa Buckley, Senior Chef Trainer at Chefs in Schools, said: “It’s been a joy to support The Grove with their transformation and to see their efforts pay off. They are so deserving of this award. We hope their story inspires other schools to get in touch with our charity because the research is clear, if school meals improve, health, attainment and wellbeing all increase too.

Photo Credits: Matt Round Photography.