Embedding sustainability into BWT’s catering provision
Joining Brooke Weston Trust as Head of Catering in 2022, Theresa Jackson brought with her over two decades of senior catering leadership experience.
With a lifelong passion and natural affinity for cooking, her aim is to provide students in our primary and secondary schools with a love and appreciation for food by creating positive “food memories”.
Part of this appreciation includes carefully considering the impact of where our food comes from and the waste we leave behind once we’ve finished with it.
With the ever-growing culture shift towards minimising our impact on the planet, Theresa is utilising her passion for sustainability within the catering provision across the Trust.
We spoke to Theresa to find out more about how she is embedding her philosophy…
What does sustainability mean to you?
“Personally, I view sustainability as maintaining things for the future, and ensuring that there are processes and methods in place for this to happen.”
“With our catering provision specifically, this includes researching and planning our food menus extensively, ensuring we know what food is in season, and even going as far as knowing what food is going to available to us in six months’ time, so that we can deliver on our promises.”
How does sustainability feature in the catering provision across BWT?
“In terms of produce, we really focus on seasonality and proximity. Our preference is always to use smaller, local suppliers where we can – not only does our business then sustain theirs, but choosing locally and seasonally-grown produce is always a better option for the planet.”
“We have also been investigating how we can reduce our reliance on single-use plastic items, because like many organisations we use a lot of disposable food containers across the Trust. With a government ban on single-use plastics coming into effect in October this year, our efforts have only been accelerated. My team is committed to finding sustainable alternatives, and I have been exploring various options that will ensure we can still provide the same great service, but with a reduced impact on the planet.”
What are you, and the wider catering team, excited about introducing in the coming year?
“Currently, we change our menu twice a year, to work with seasonal changes, and will be introducing the new menu in October - which is always exciting as a lot goes into planning our menus. We are hoping to incorporate more themed days in the coming year. We will be exploring foods from different cultures and aligning our food options more with what students are learning about – to help solidify the curriculum in a fun, and interactive way.”
“Hopefully, following discussions with schools, we can carry out more activities with students outside of the curriculum. I’m really interested to know what they are being taught within the curriculum, and to see how we could potentially expand on the students’ learning and knowledge, and better equip them for the future. I would also love to support students who show a keen interest in catering and food with opportunities beyond their school years, for example, apprenticeships with the Trust.”
“Several of my team are also involved in apprenticeships themselves, so it will be great to start implementing the skills they have learnt in the coming year. I will also be exploring how we can operate more efficiently as a catering team. This will hopefully involve the team having more opportunities to visit other schools across the Trust, and learn about how things operate there, so we can collaborate and share best practice more effectively.”
How is student and staff wellbeing considered?
“We are very conscious of the quality of ingredients that we use. For example, all our sandwiches are made from scratch, including our fillings, to ensure that staff and students are provided with something fresh and healthy. Working within the school food standards also means we have guidelines as to what food our menus should contain, for example making sure there is enough fruit provided – i.e. 50% in our desserts.”
“We also always consider the time of year when planning our menus too. For example, during the summer, when it is hotter, we will offer lighter food options and during the colder months, we will provide more hearty, warming meals.”
“There are always ‘grab and go’ food options, like baguettes, salads and home-made flapjacks, available as we know that these foods are great for fuelling both staff and students throughout the day.”
“In terms of the catering team specifically, our next ‘Wow Day’ is currently in the planning stages. This is a day where everyone, whether they are a manager or a catering assistant, can come together to discuss the highlights of the year, and plan what we would like to do next year. It’s an opportunity for my team to have their ideas and opinions heard, and a day where I can thank them all for their hard work.”
What are the long-term sustainability and wellbeing goals for BWT’s catering provision?
“We have been exploring the long-term sustainability of our food supply and have been looking at the viability of allotments at the schools. Although it is unlikely that we would be able to grow all we needed to feed everyone on site from the allotment, the main intention would be to have students involved in growing the food - a valuable life skill, that isn’t often taught to young people. The produce from the allotment would then be used in food tech lessons – showing young people the full transition of produce from seed to plate.”
“Ultimately, we want to carry on with the great work we are already doing and continue to build on it. I’m constantly researching and looking for ways that we can do this but an easy way for us to do this is by getting feedback from the schools. I have recently carried out a survey with the secondary schools and I will be carrying out one with the primary schools soon. I’m looking forward to reading the feedback from them and exploring how this can be implemented into our provision.”
Thank you, Theresa!