Nottinghamshire County Council spends £2m on school meals

Out of the £6 million the County Council spends each year on food for schools, around a third of this goes to local suppliers or those based less than 50 miles away.

This translates to around three quarters of the food on the plate of an average school dinner in Nottinghamshire.

But a report out this month from the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England claims that the growing appetite for locally produced food is being killed off by the rise of supermarkets, stating that they stock hardly any local food.

Andy Stewart, the County Council’s committee chairman for personnel and performance, said: “Every pound we spend locally translates into £3 which directly benefits the local economy and we’re keen to support local businesses and local jobs.”

The amount the Council buys from local suppliers has soared in the last year as the take-up of school meals continues to rise – up nearly nine per cent in 2011/12 on the previous year.

Compared with this time last year, for example, the Council is buying around 185,000 more sausages from its local meat supplier in Tuxford and ordering nearly 3,000 more chickens from its poultry farmer.

The CPRE report states that money spent in small independent shops supports three times the number of jobs than that spent in supermarket chains.

Coun Stewart added: “For several years now, we’ve also been actively trying to reduce our carbon footprint, and eating produce that’s been locally reared or grown locally is one of the best ways to achieve this.

“By sourcing local produce, we can generate more income for the local economy, and even better, bring schools some great tasting school dinners.”

In the Council’s biggest ever survey of what parents and children thought about its school meals service, which was undertaken recently, nearly 80 per cent of parents ranked them as good or very good. Around 8,000 took part.

Meat used in Notts school meals comes from award-winning local butcher, Maloney’s based in Tuxford. Their animals graze freely in the fields and parks in and around the county - from wild venison from Sherwood Forest and beef from Holme Farm in Rampton to pork from East Drayton and Hockerwood Farm in Upton.

And the Council’s Freedom Food-accredited turkey and chicken is sourced from Lincolnshire.

“If you take the roast dinner we serve up in schools, the meat and seasonal vegetables all come from local suppliers. Even in a dessert like our icky sticky toffee pudding, both the milk and eggs are sourced locally.

“So in terms of quantity of food, locally bought products and ingredients make up between 70 and 80 percent of what you’d find on the plate of an average school dinner,” added Kevin McKay, the Council’s manager for catering and facilities.

The Council buys fresh milk from Newfield Dairy in Hockerton and its free range eggs come from Fieldson Farm Eggs in Lincolnshire. Fresh, seasonal vegetables - grown locally where possible – are supplied by Country Fresh Foods in Sheffield.