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Food awards success for local school

Published on Thursday, March 17, 2022

4 minute read

Stokes Wood Primary School pupils with their award

Stokes Wood Primary School in Leicester has won a prestigious national food award.

The All Parliamentary Party Group (APPG) Excellence in School Food awards recognise innovation and commitment to serve healthy food to children across the UK. An awards event was held at the Nottingham Belfry Hotel on 3rd March 2022, where Stokes Wood Primary and Food for Life’s co-founder Jeanette Orrey were both honoured for their work.

The panel of judges and MPs honoured the school for their excellent demonstration of a creative initiative to serve healthy food to children.

Passionate to improve the physical and mental health of their pupils and the wider community, Stokes Wood has been working with the Food for Life awards programme, a national scheme which promotes healthy and sustainable food. The school has achieved a Silver Award through the programme for its whole-school approach to food.

Locally, the Food for Life awards programme is backed by funding from Leicester City Council’s public health team, and is a key part of the city’s Food Plan to make Leicester a healthy and sustainable food city. City Catering, the council’s in-house catering supplier, provides healthy, balanced school meals at Stokes Wood. Most of the food on the menu is freshly prepared; it is free from trans fats, sweeteners, and additives.

Stokes Wood headteacher Jane Gadsby said: “We were absolutely delighted to receive this award, which is the result of a lot of hard work from everyone at the school. Sam Winzar and her team from Leicester City Catering, our office and pastoral staff work tirelessly and we hold regular events to get families involved, including inviting parents to eat with us, to help spread our healthy eating messages out into the community.

“Getting this award marked an amazing couple of days for our school, as the day before we also won the Youth Sport Trust award for outstanding primary practice. This award recognised our efforts to keep our pupils fit and healthy, especially during lockdown, when our staff personally delivered skipping ropes to all our pupils!

“We’re so delighted to be recognised for our work helping children to build healthy, active lifestyle habits for the future.”

Lisa Didier, Leicester’s Food for Life local programme manager, nominated Stokes Wood for their commitment to improving school meals and the health and wellbeing of their children and families. The submission was also supported by a letter from their local MP, shadow social care minister Liz Kendall.

Lisa said: “Stokes Wood worked so hard throughout the pandemic to maintain their commitment to healthy eating. The school maintained vital connections with vulnerable families, helping them to eat healthy food at a low cost, by teaming up with a local food bank for the first time - the Chroma Church Foodbank – and also working with the Nida Foundation and Giving World.

“A four-week project encouraged and guided families to cook healthy meals from fresh ingredients using food contributions from the food bank and specially designed recipes provided by Food for Life.”

To further support learning in the home during lockdown, Stokes Wood Primary sent home activities for parents to do with their children including ideas for growing and cooking at home as well as instructions to promote these activities. The delighted parents shared the results with the school by sending photos of their children enjoying these activities at home. Feedback from families included parents saying: “I'm cooking with ingredients I've never cooked with”; and “it gets the kids involved and eating food they wouldn't try before.”

This whole-school approach to food has been praised by Food for Life as well as by the National Food Strategy.

Leicester City Council commissions the Food for Life scheme in the area. Assistant city mayor for public health Cllr Vi Dempster said: “Stokes Wood’s work to win this award is incredibly positive and inspiring and thoroughly well-deserved. In Leicester we are very proud of our commitment to Food for Life, our community growing projects and our in-house catering service, and awards like this one help to reinforce the principles of our Food Plan for the city. We congratulate all at Stokes Wood on both their awards.”

Keen to continue seeing how food can be used to empower parents and pupils, Stokes Wood Primary has expanded its work with Food for Life. Signing up to the pilot Food and Mood project, pupils took part in a short film to explore the links between healthy diets and positive mental health and wellbeing.

Food for Life’s ethos is that good food should be easily available for everyone, everywhere and every day. Thanks to the many Food for Life caterers, school cooks, teachers and Public Health commissioners, over 1 million children eat healthy and freshly prepared meals in school every day: nutritious and tasty food that’s good for them and also good for the planet.

Food for Life’s co-founder Jeanette Orrey was also recognised for her work with an Excellence in School Food Award in the Individual category at the APPG awards. 

The award acknowledges Jeanette’s outstanding dedication to improving school meals for all and tackling food poverty. It coincides with a large milestone for Jeanette, who at the end of last year decided to ‘hang up her apron’ and take a step back from her role at Food for Life after almost 20 years.

Jeanette has steered Food for Life from its initial Bristol pilot of six schools to an internationally recognised programme with 10,000 schools, acknowledged in the School Food Plan, National Food Strategy and hospital food review. Now over 2 million good and healthy meals are served in public food settings a day through the Food for Life Served Here scheme.