The provision of catering services in schools, academies trust, hospitals and other public sector establishments has predominantly been driven by price, leading to the image of institutional food as low cost, low taste and low nutrition.
Campaigns such as Jamie Oliver’s Feed Me Better, which notoriously campaigned against Turkey Twizzlers, have been successful in highlighting the need for school meals to serve nutritious, nourishing food.
The government has responded: its 2014 Plan for Public Procurement of food aimed to shift the emphasis from cost saving to investing in healthy, tasty food, sourced from local producers; the Childhood Obesity Plan acknowledged that public sector catering should provide healthy options and encourage users to make healthy choices.
Common issues in providing catering services
Suppliers providing food and catering services to the public sector are required or encouraged to adhere to various guidelines, such as School Food Standards, intended to ensure food is nutritious:
- One or more portions of vegetables or salad as an accompaniment every day
- At least three different fruits, and three different vegetables each week
- An emphasis on wholegrain foods in place of refined carbohydrates
- An emphasis on making water the drink of choice
- Limiting fruit juice portions to 150ml
- Restricting the amount of added sugars or honey in other drinks to five percent
- No more than two portions a week of food that has been deep-fried, batter-coated or breadcrumb-coated.
- No more than two portions of food which include pastry each week.
In addition to the standards relating to nutrition, there is also pressure to ensure that food is sustainable, environmentally friendly and ethically produced – amplified in the wake of the horsemeat scandal – while maintaining low costs for the buying authority and the users. All of which will be covered in catering tenders.