Celebrating food champions in the city

On Thursday evening, Brighton & Hove City Council won a national award for their trailblazing work around food, at the Soil Association's Catering Mark Awards in London.

The council was  nominated for their bold decision to adopt minimum buying standards which requires all major catering contracts to achieve the Catering Mark within their first year of contract.

Brighton & Hove is the first city to specify this so we're really pleased that the Soil Association has recognised the work that has been done here.

Sustainability Officer at the council, Francesca Iliffe, won the award for the huge amount of hard work and dedication that she put into making this policy a reality. Catering contracts affected by this policy include all Primary & Special Schools, the Brighton Centre, Brighton Dome & Royal Pavilion & Museums, Meals on Wheels and staff catering for the council.

What is the Catering Mark?

The Catering Mark is a scheme set up by the Soil Association to award caterers for taking steps to improve the food they serve. The standards that caterers meet ensure most food is cooked from scratch using fresh ingredients which are free from trans fats, harmful additives and GM and are better for animal welfare. There are three awards, so working through from Bronze to Silver and then Gold is encouraged. Nationally, over 178 million meals are served each year across:

  • 7000 schools
  • 300 nurseries
  • 30+ universities
  • 75% of London Boroughs
  • 6 hospitals
  • 25% of English schools

We like the fact that each caterer pays for an annual audit which ensures they are doing what they say they're doing and the award of the Catering Mark logo helps communicate all this to the public.

Who has achieved the Catering Mark in Brighton & Hove?

The council and other public sector organisations spend millions of pounds on food and catering services each year, so changing food buying to healthy and sustainable, locally-produced food can bring huge benefits to people's health, the environment and the local economy.  Thanks to the council's innovative food buying policy, it is now a requirement for caterers to apply for the Catering Mark within their first year of contract.

We think there are so many people in the city that deserve to be crowned food champions but here we've chosen three that have managed to achieve the Catering Mark:

Susie Haworth from Brighton & Hove City Council and her team at Eden Foodservice managed to achieve the Silver Catering Mark whilst also rolling out free school meals for all infant school children in the city. That's 12,000 meals a day served across 64 schools,  which is an amazing achievement!

"Gaining the Silver Food for Life award last October was a great opportunity to demonstrate that the Brighton & Hove City Council is committed to the ongoing improvement of their school meals service, at a time when many felt that the quality of food would drop with the introduction of Universal Infant Free School Meals (i.e. parents not paying would mean that quality would drop). It was important to give confidence to new and existing customers that food quality and sustainability are at the heart of the service we provide within the city." Susie Haworth, School Meals Team Manager, Brighton & Hove City Council

Imogen Lee and Head Chef Daniel Loader at Kudos catering worked hard to ensure The Brighton Centre recently achieved their Bronze Catering Mark, which is fantastic. Being a major venue, they have around 250,000 people attending concerts and 20 major conventions held with capacity of 5,500 per year, so this achievement really impacts a lot of people – both residents and visitors.

''We are thrilled to have been awarded the Bronze Catering Mark at the Brighton Centre. This is a great achievement for the team and confirms the commitment Kudos has towards using only the best locally sourced, sustainable ingredients, prepared and served by our trusted staff. We are very proud of our achievement - now to start working towards the Silver Catering Mark!'' Imogen Lee, Kudos (catering & events team at the Brighton Centre)

Jean Piper and her brilliant in-house team at the University of Brighton have pulled out all the stops to ensure all five campuses, serving 22,000 students and 2,500 staff have also achieved the Bronze Catering Mark – excellent news!

"We can now proudly add the bronze award to every one of our main restaurant areas, which is a major achievement for such a large and diverse hospitality service. As usual, this would not have been possible without the dedicated hard work of our Hospitality teams, and in particular, Jean Piper and Debbie King. " David Hicks, Deputy Head, Accomodation & Hospitality Services, University of Brighton

So, what next?

Locally, we'd love to see all the council's major catering contracts achieve at least the Bronze Catering Mark. It would be fantastic if other organisations in the city would like to work with us to achieve the award, from nurseries to secondary schools, workplaces, universities, venues and care homes. There are step by step standards for each of them to follow to improve the food they serve.

We would hope that the local hospital, run by Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust could also start on a journey to achieve the Catering Mark - the Department of Health has recognised that the Catering Mark is an effective way to raise hospital food standards.

Nationally, we hope the standards for the Catering Mark will become more stringent too, particularly looking at the jump between achieving the Silver to Gold. To be truly meaningful, these standards should be pushed to encompass higher welfare meat and dairy and for more local and healthy food to take centre stage within the menus.

Read more about Brighton & Hove City Council's Minimum Buying Standards and the role the Food Partnership took in developing them.