A new co-operative set up to serve almost 2.5 million meals to Plymouth school children each year is believed to be one of the first in the UK.
The newly formed local authority trading co-operative company called CATERed is 49 per cent owned by schools and 51 per cent by the council.
It brings together the pooled budgets of 61 Plymouth primary schools, five special schools and one alternative complementary education service.
Decisions about the school meals service will be taken by a co-operative joint partnership board of elected representatives from the schools and the Council.
CATERed currently serves more than 12,000 meals every day to children in Plymouth with 86 per cent of the menu made fresh from scratch every single day.
Central to the fresh preparation and cooking of the meals is the use of local, fresh, seasonal and organic ingredients which are sourced wherever possible from within the region. The use of high quality, local ingredients ensures that CATERed also supports local growers and farmers and the regional economy.
The move follows the government’s decision in April 2013 to hand budgets for school meals, once held centrally by councils, to individual schools which created the situation where some schools did not have sufficient funds to be able to afford to maintain the provision and that potentially they would not be able to continue to offer hot lunches for city children.
The new co-operative guarantees all children and young people in Plymouth continue to get great tasting, freshly prepared hot meal at lunchtime.
Liz Hill, Head Teacher of Hyde Park Infants Schools said: “As individual schools we recognised that ensuring all of our pupils were able to have great tasting school meals was essential not only for their health and well-being but also their learning. Working with Brad and his team and the Council we know that pooling and sharing our budgets in this unique and innovative way achieves economies of scale and efficiencies. This means our school food services have a great future and can grow and develop.”
Brad Pearce, Managing director of CATERed said: “The new co-operative formed by Plymouth schools and the Council is an innovative way of ensuring that more Plymouth children have access to high quality and nutritious school meals. Good school meals are hugely important both to children’s education and their health and wellbeing and CATERed is well set to build on the high standards already set by the Council’s award winning school meals service.”
All staff who were previously employed by the council’s education catering service transferred to the company under TUPE on 01 April 2015.