>> Sunday, 3 November 2013
Aberdeenshire SNP Councillors have welcomed a move which could lead to an increase in the amount of local produce going into the region's school meals.
The report, which was prepared by Council officials, came following concerns which were raised by SNP members at the previous Committee Meeting over the importation of cooked chicken from Thailand for use in school meals.
Although the report defended the practice of importing cooked chicken, it also undertook that members of the council's school catering team would receive a presentation from the Soil Association later this month on the Association's 'Food for Life Scotland' programme, and would work towards achieving accreditation under the scheme.
This is the only UK-wide certification scheme providing an endorsement that food providers are taking steps to ensure the food they serve is fresh, seasonal, free from undesirable additives or GM and better for animal welfare.
Speaking afterwards, Aberdeenshire SNP Education Spokesperson Councillor Jean Dick welcomed the initiative, but expressed her disappointment at the inability to secure sufficient supplies of local chicken.
“It's obviously disappointing to learn that it's not possible at the moment to find enough Scottish produced prepared chicken. Nevertheless, we hope that greater local procurement can play a big part in helping to achieve 'Food For Life Scotland' accreditation.”
“Working towards measures like this can only help to improve quality and grow the market for local produce. If that in turn helps to increase the uptake of school meals, then that's a good outcome for everyone.”
The Food for Life Scotland programme aims to transform food culture across the country. A key element of the programme is to support caterers in schools, nurseries, hospitals, leisure and tourism outlets and workplaces to achieve the Food for Life Catering Mark.
Bronze, silver and gold tiers encourage caterers to make step-by-step progress and are audited to ensure they meet high standards of provenance and traceability. This provides reassurance to customers that meals are freshly prepared using environmentally-sustainable and seasonal ingredients.
Currently, only East and North Ayrshire Councils hold gold Food for Life catering marks, with a further five authorities holding bronze marks for the catering service provided in either all or some of their primary schools.
Following the presentation, Aberdeenshire's catering service is to carry out a 'gap analysis' audit, in order to identify any areas for potential improvement to achieve the initial tier of Catering Mark being recommended.