I feel very fortunate in my role at Alleyn’s to be able to drive forward a number of personal passions – sustainability and food. As Director of Finance, it’s vital I strive to see our resources used efficiently and cost-effectively, but for me it’s much more than that – it's also about supporting the best interests of our planet, our local community, our staff and, of course, our pupils.
It’s why our recent move to bring catering in-house at Alleyn’s is so hugely exciting for me. Why? Because it means we can ensure the fundamental principles of acting sustainably and providing our children and staff with nutritious, healthy food can be met.
Our philosophy on food at Alleyn’s is to enhance quality and choice to produce delicious, wholesome food which pupils look forward to eating each day. Where possible we want pupils to eat hot food, rather than just grabbing a snack. We offer a fixed price for lunch, so they have a well-balanced meal at school each day, offering vegetables, salads and fruit so they’re not just selecting a portion of chips with minimal nutritional value. Food makes such an enormous difference to pupils’ well-being, their education and their health.
We wish for the food served at Alleyn’s to be interesting, appetising, colourful and delicious. Since our new and extensively qualified Executive Chef, Frederic Scieux, arrived last December, he has been developing his kitchen team in terms of their skills and sharing his passion and we are already seeing enhancements to the quality of food!
Covid-19 has of course created challenges for us all, our catering team notwithstanding. At the moment, the range of food we can offer pupils and staff remains limited due to limited kitchen and dining space. But as soon as we can, we hope to offer more choices to pupils. And something I’m extremely passionate about is ensuring pupils can eat lunch outdoors this term and we hope to offer more contemporary ‘street food’ options to help with this. Our pupils have dealt with so much time indoors over the last year. Restricted to their homes and stuck behind screens, I’m determined to help them enjoy some time outdoors having a delicious lunch in our beautiful school grounds now the weather is improving.
We are on a journey both out of Covid-19 restrictions and developing a new and improved food offering at Alleyn’s over the next term. We are also planning to invest in the kitchen area this summer so the team can expand their range of food and efficiency of food production; they are pretty limited in space at the moment in a pretty old kitchen and I know the first things on their wish list is a much larger walk-in fridge and freezer!
I’ll continue to work with our fantastic Pupil Catering Committee who provide regular feedback to the catering team. All pupils are represented from the Junior School up to Sixth form and, thanks to their efforts, the School is now a “meat free Monday” school every Monday, helping to reduce our impact on the environment. The Pupils’ Catering Committee have also provided great ideas for menus and provided feedback on their favourite (and least favourite!) dishes as well as a focus on reducing food waste and disposable waste in the Dining Hall over the couple of years. We have now virtually eliminated plastic in the Dining Hall and dramatically reduced our plastic consumption. We have enhanced recycling of all waste and our food waste is recycled to produce biofuel. Food waste is a key measure. It can be a difficult balance to strike – to reduce waste and make sure we have enough food so that the child who is last in the lunch queue has the same choices as the child who is first, but we’re working hard to get this balance exactly right. We are smart with food waste – using leftover produce in the salads we make the next day, for example, and we encourage pupils to only take what they can eat.
And one of the most significant reasons why we have moved to in-house catering is because we can select our own suppliers and, where possible, more local and competitive prices. Local suppliers help us to reduce food miles and use more seasonal ingredients.
I am thrilled about these steps, and I know my catering colleagues, who are excited to become employees of the School, share my passions for providing nutritious food and limiting our carbon footprint. Some members of the team have been at Alleyn’s for many years and will be well-known to our pupils, which also ensures continuity of support to those with food allergies. Allergy management remains a priority and our staff have extensive allergy management experience, receive regular training, and follow stringent policies and procedures. In addition, there are catering staff wearing “Allergen Buddy” badges to identify themselves as the people to speak to should a child have any questions about the food.
I really look forward to working with the team and our pupils on providing exciting, delicious and nutritious food in a sustainable way to our community.
Find out more about catering at Alleyn's in the All About Food section on the website.