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24 March, 2006

As part of the Government's recommendations, schools are being asked to work towards serving hot meals, cooked on-site, from fresh and seasonal ingredients using produce supplied by local farmers and suppliers where possible.

The response has been swift, with a number of county councils introducing more sustainable sourcing policies. However, one council in particular, has been especially proactive in its approach to sourcing and serving quality meat in its schools.

Having signed up to source Quality Standard beef and lamb from an EBLEX-approved supplier, Cumbria County Council has been working with chef Nick

Foster, head chef at an award-winning restaurant in the Lake District, to introduce tasty and nutritionally balanced meals to Cumbrian schools.

Over 80 kitchen team leaders from Cumbria County Council's Premises unit gathered recently for a special 'school menu development workshop' during which four kitchen team leaders were invited to join Nick in the kitchen, preparing and serving trial recipes to their peers for lunch. The new dishes 'Cumbrian Steak, Onion and Vegetable Pie with a Herb Suet Crust' and 'Cumbrian Lamb and Mint Burgers, made with Quality Standard beef and lamb, have since been added to the lunch menu at 200 primary and secondary schools throughout the county.

Nick said the dishes had been developed to be tasty and nutritious as well as easy for the school caterers to incorporate into the lunchtime menu. "Too many kids overload on processed foods packed full of 'E' numbers and other ingredients, so it was important to me to create some really simple, tasty dishes using wholesome ingredients that would really appeal to the children. "Knowing the origin of your food is incredibly important and I always try to source from quality-assured suppliers and make the most of the wealth of ingredients the local area has to offer."

He added: "I hope that my involvement in this initiative has helped to demonstrate just how easy it is to create delicious and nutritious meals from scratch in a morning - in time for lunch - and that you don't have to be a restaurant chef to be able to do it. It's been great to take part in a project that will help to improve the diet and health of local children at the same time as supporting regional produce."

Nick's passion in using quality ingredients is echoed by EBLEX's Hugh Judd, who joined Nick in the kitchen at the prep stage of the meals. "Quality assurance and traceability of ingredients used in the preparation of children's meals is of paramount importance," said Hugh. "By sourcing meat through a fully assured supply chain caterers can be reassured that the beef and lamb they serve to children has been subjected to independently audited, rigorous quality controls from farm to table." Hugh added: "It's fantastic to see the council working in partnership with their supplier and a reputable chef like Nick Foster to raise the standards of red meat dishes offered in schools."

Cumbria County Councillor Philip Chappelhow, said: "The council is a firm believer in providing school children with good quality meals using ingredients from the local area. Nick's help in developing these recipes and demonstrating just how easy they are to create has been invaluable."





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