THE SOIL Association this week announced that one million high quality meals being served each workday in schools, universities, nurseries, workplaces, hospitals, care homes and restaurants across the UK.
The Catering Mark independently certifies food to ensure it meets high standards of provenance, freshness and quality and that British, local, sustainable and higher welfare products are used.
Food providers are credited with making fresh good quality food widely available – with many of these meals served in the public sector where people have less choice about what they eat, and where good quality food is often most needed. Catering Mark meals are now served in over 25% schools in England, 20% universities, 300+ nurseries and 100+ care home and hospital settings.
This is a significant milestone for food served in the private and public sector, meaning that each day, one million people are served meals independently guaranteed to meet high standards of provenance, nutrition, traceability, freshness and quality. It is a fantastic achievement for contract caterers who have demonstrated real leadership in raising the standard of food served outside the home.
Caterers are taking up the challenge of prioritising good, healthy food with the likes of ISS Education and ISS healthcare, Sodexo, Harrison Catering, Compass Group, Aramark, BaxterStorey, Caterlink and Eden Foodservice all choosing to have their meals certified by the Catering Mark. The independent verification the Catering Mark gives commercial caterers can help secure contracts and has been a significant marketing tool when communicating to customers the efforts they go to in serving food that is better for people’s health and the environment.
Mark Davies, Director of Education at ISS said: "The Catering Mark offers us a real point of difference that independently shows that we have planned and prepared meals that are healthy, fresh, well sourced and local. It is fantastic to be part of the first million meals. He continued: "Having the Catering Mark is a great accolade for us across ISS and we intend to continue to add more schools and hospitals as it is good for our customers, good for our suppliers and good for business."
The Catering Mark provides a significant boost to the British farming industry, with over £40 million spent on British ingredients each year. Figures show the growing demand for healthier, sustainable food in the UK food sector - in 2014 the wholesale value of Red Tractor meat sold into Catering Mark supply chains was over 23 million. The Catering Mark is also referenced in the government plan for public procurement.
Collectively, Catering Mark holders annually spend over £7 million on organic ingredients, nearly £4 million on free range and Freedom Food-certified meat, over £1.2 million on LEAF marque certified products and £3.8 million on MSC certified fish.
The announcement is made in the same week that the industry gathered at a Footprint Forum in association with TUCO supported by Fairtrade to revisit the industry's ethical mark debate.