Catering for a Greener Future

Green CateringAmy Teichman is the Group Development Chef for Alliance in Partnership’s Kensington and Chelsea contracts. Here, she talks about sustainability and environmental issues.

With healthy living and environmental issues increasingly entering the public consciousness, where food is sourced from and how companies operate is very important to clients in the catering world, particularly those in the education sector.

At Alliance in Partnership, our commitment to quality produce and sustainable methods gives the schools we deal with an added reassurance; not only is it nutritious, it is also ethically produced and our methods are kind to the environment.

We are increasingly expanding our range of organically grown products and are committed to saving on environmental impact and improving health benefits. It is vital that our menus send out the right messages and in my role I am constantly striving to secure the best produce from the right sources.

I joined AiP over three years ago and am constantly impressed by its desire to keep changing and innovating.

As a nutritionalist and dietician from theUS, it was important for me to find a role with a company which shared my belief in the importance of what you eat. It’s great to be part of such a strong team and the enthusiasm of the staff is infectious.

At AiP, we ensure we offer Red Tractor meats, organic choices and Fair-trade options, all the time adhering to nutritional guidelines. We are also mindful of sustainability issues affecting schools such as depleting fish stocks: our fish dishes are sourced from fisheries approved by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

This type of thinking has enabled us to grow our reputation as a trustworthy supplier and a fresh-thinking market leader.

The fact that we promote sustainability is clearly demonstrated by industry recognition in the form of various awards. Our silver, bronze and now gold Food for Life Catering Marks are prestigious awards recognising freshly prepared, locally sourced and seasonal organic food. The Gold Catering Mark requires 50% of the menu to be local produce, 30% to be of organic origin or Marine Stewardship Council approved, 75% freshly prepared daily and free from genetically modified ingredients.

It was a real thrill to attend the Soil Association’s Food for Life ceremony and receive our Gold award from top chef Brian Turner. But the biggest thrills of all come from the daily challenges of my role and the opportunity to create, innovate and work with inspiring suppliers and schools who share our commitment to ethical issues. It is great to receive positive feedback from clients who are impressed with our work and recommend us to others.

It’s important to realise that even something as simple as a sandwich should be as nutritious and well-sourced. We put as much thought into our light lunches and snacks as we do into our main meals. AiP have a range of organic bread available, from loaves to pizza bases and wholemeal burger buns. We introduced organic nut free bread into 26 schools in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. This uses organic sunflower oil when baking, and is supplied by a local family business, Aston’s Bakery, in Cricklewood,London.

This type of thinking pays off as our clients enjoy the choice and healthy options and we have just received notification that we’re being awarded a Real Bread Upper Crust Award, which we’re delighted about.

In addition, we are on board with events such as Fairtrade Fortnight and provide Fairtrade tea, coffee and orange juice.

Equally important is our commitment to championing the best local suppliers. Location has always been a test with local sources asLondonisn’t rural by nature. AiP spent a significant amount of time and consideration in researching farmers and suppliers within the adjacent counties ofLondon. These local restrictions help to reduce emissions, congestion and support British suppliers.

Utilising local suppliers reduces food miles and improves the local community’s economy; Aston’s Bakery gain substantial revenue from AiP each year for the 100 per cent organic bread. Supplier relationships are very strong, in particular with fresh fruit and vegetable supplier Langridge Organics in the planning of seasonal ingredients to build menus around their availability.

I thought that bringing in menus with seasonal produce, rather than just based on client requests, would provide a healthy approach and it’s been really successful.

These seasonal ingredients are a treat for many of our clients and the Kensington and Chelsea schools have great pride in serving the likes of pumpkin, swede, celeriac, orchard fruits and organic cheese.

We have also developed Meat Free Mondays to assist with the sustainability of meat sources and have made a really big deal of the day to create enthusiasm.

Pupils are able to eat their favourite meals of British Kent jacket potatoes or pasta and we turn the dining serving area into a plethora of toppings, served with local British dairy.

It would be remiss of us to work within the education sector without understanding the importance of supporting efforts to teach pupils about the origins of food and the importance of both nutrition and green issues. AiP donates money for schools to develop their own vegetable patches to grow their own produce and help pupils develop their understanding. This has the added benefit of saving costs and increasing school meals uptake.

As well as our dishes, thought goes into the equipment used, with appliances such as a Blue Seal oven chosen for its sustainability. Recent additional innovations have included the introduction of electric vehicles to deliver fresh food to satellite schools within the contract, brand new kitchen facilities and sustainability and environmental processes to reduce pollution, paper waste and food waste.

Our approach is certainly paying off. We have secured almost 150 contracts, with a turnover of £13m. Our business continues to grow and our commitment to sustainability is growing alongside it.

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