Scottish Education Catering – How Saffron is Helping School Meals in Scotland Meet Targets

Scottish Education Catering – How Saffron is Helping School Meals in Scotland Meet Targets

Scotland has a rich culinary history, but in recent years has become more well known for deep-fried Mars bars than haggis and cullen skink. What does that mean for Scottish children’s health and how can we work together to improve the picture of catering in the education system across Scotland?

Here we’ll be exploring:

  • Is school nutrition a difficult issue for children in Scotland?

    Adults have always struggled to get the correct nutrition into children and schools are no different. However in recent years, unhealthy eating has led to childhood obesity and, consequently, rising levels of Type 2 diabetes across the UK and in Scotland. According to Scottish School Meals, there are currently 867,000 school aged pupils in Scotland – an estimated 30% are overweight. This means that 260,000 school aged pupils are overweight in Scotland[1]. Clearly, school food will have a role to play in preventing and reversing this trend, and the media calls[2] for a revolution to tackle the crisis[3].

    The legislative landscape surrounding Scotland’s school food provision

    At Fretwell-Downing Hospitality, we are well aware of the public policies that shape the education catering landscape, and the challenges (such as rising childhood obesity) that gave rise to those policies.

    School caterers in Scotland must comply with a raft of regulatory issues in providing school meals and this alone can make it difficult to keep on top of the admin in proving compliance. 2003’s initiative Hungry For Success[4] began to raise the standards of school food, and the Scottish Government now aims for Scotland to become a ‘Good Food Nation’[5]. Hungry for Success was further developed by the publication of Better Eating, Better Learning: A New Context for School Food[6] in 2014, which helped local authorities to deepen their understanding of the strategic importance of school food, and recommended ways to strengthen their implementation of policies.

    The legislation that governs school food standards in Scotland is the Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007. This law led to regulations in nutritional profiles for school food, contained in The Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2008. Beyond that, implementation advice was issued in them is Healthy Eating in Schools – A guide to implementing the Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2008, and regulations around procurement are dictated in The Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014.  Other legislation and guidance that Scottish local authorities are expected to take into account when planning provision for school food includes the The Single Outcome Agreement, Curriculum for Excellence, The Public Duties Climate Change Guidance 2011, Obesity Route Map Action Plan, Scottish Dietary Goals, Community Planning duties, The Sustainable Procurement Action Plan 2007 and the Procurement Reform Bill, The National Food and Drink Policy 2008, and The Christie Commission Report on the Future Delivery of Public Service[7].

    However, in both 2014/15 and 2015/16, a Freedom of Information request revealed that almost half of schools inspected were found to not be compliant with food and drink standards and nutrient standards. The non-compliance ranged from the very minor to very major, so it’s inappropriate to make a blanket judgement. Education Scotland is working extensively with the local authorities concerned[8].

    How Saffron is helping Education Scotland to improve efficiencies in education catering

    Our catering software Saffron is now used by half of local authorities in Scotland to design, plan, cost and procure whole menu cycles that are compliant with nutrient standards. Is it any coincidence that half of inspected schools were revealed to be compliant while the other half failed to meet standards? The Freedom of Information request which provided the information explained the limitations of the data collected: it was “not possible to separate out from the figures which are from the school provision or other providers” but the numbers make curious reading.

    By way of background, historically the Scottish government had provided installation of a tendered software function to local authorities free of charge. However, when faced with the withdrawal of this, local authorities had to reconsider what they would purchase from the market. Saffron has overwhelmingly been their choice, and below we’ll look at why.

    Challenge  How Saffron Helps
    Compliance with nutrient standards  Saffron’s Recipe and menu planning module help design recipes and menus in conjunction with the Nutrition and allergies module, while benchmarking against any nutritional requirements, either imported or user-set. Alerts are made when food isn’t compliant so changes can be made to ensure nutritional compliance.
    Combating childhood obesity Again, school food standards should rightly dictate the nutritional profiles of food provided by caterers. School caterers can have a real impact by designing low-fat choices.
    Changing from another system Implementation of Saffron is easy with our technical team and account management teams on hand to guide you through the process. What’s more, we are also working directly with the dietitians at Education Scotland on training to ‘bed in’ Saffron at local authorities and ensure a seamless transition.
    Understanding data Data is pointless unless it becomes contextual information you can use to make strategic decisions. Saffron’s Business Intelligence dashboard produces visual representations of data to easily present and digest the numbers and inform planning decisions.

  • What next?

    With half of local authorities in Scotland already using Saffron, can you afford to be in the half that were found not to be meeting nutrition standards? Call us today on 0114 281 6060, email us at or fill out our contact form.

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