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Case Study: Hampshire County Council 2018

Case Study: Hampshire County Council 2018

Case Study: Hampshire County Council 2018

by Amanda Whatley, Hampshire County Council (HC3S) 

During British Food Fortnight, Hampshire County Council Catering Service (HC3S) went beyond the school meal, to show children the kinds of food being produced in Hampshire and encouraging pupils to try new things.

Linking with our local suppliers, we held our first ‘meet the producer’ events in schools where we tested children’s taste buds and showed them the kinds of food produced in Hampshire with a fortnight of hand’s on activities. One aim was to encourage them to try food they had not been aware of or had the opportunity to try, due to economic disadvantage or simply lack of parental awareness.

  • Hampshire producers included:
  • Mr Whitehead’s (apple Juice) from Alton
  • Fluffets Farm (free range eggs) from Fordingbridge
  • New Forest Fruit company (fruit) from the New Forest

HC3S promoted the importance of food miles and buying British at all events so that children had an understanding of where their food comes from.

We wanted to take children out of the classroom to learn about British food too. Our launch event took place on the River Test where 12 young members of the school council at Springwood Junior School in Waterlooville toured a local rainbow trout farm (Chalk Stream Farm) seeing the different streams and tanks; they learned different stages of fish development such as how the markings differ according to size of fish, saw them being fed and got to touch them up close, before returning them to the water. After masses of questions the event culminated in pupils tasting hot smoked trout and trout pate for the first time. The joy and excitement on pupils’ faces was clearly visible to everyone involved. Teachers were very happy with the learning experience and the school council took notes to give a whole school assembly afterwards.

Springwood pupil Jack, aged 10, said: “It was really interesting. I especially liked seeing the different sizes of fish. I have never been anywhere like this before.”

Billie, aged 8, also enjoyed the tour. She said: “I have eaten fish at home and didn’t like it. But I might try it again now.”

Chalk Stream Farms said: “Today was a pleasure, to see so many happy and curious faces was a real joy. Local produce for local people, a winner every time!”

For the ‘meet the producer’ events we invited our local school meals suppliers into selected schools to demonstrate to pupils the story behind food that is on their doorstep. A key focus for our activities centred on British fish, but with our apple juice supplier, Mr Whitehead’s, we were able to take a joint assembly to show year three and four pupils the food chain from apple growing in Hampshire orchards, picking, pressing and producing the apple juice they drink at school, with children discovering and tasting 8 varieties of apples in small groups,.

At Wicor Primary School, we showed year five pupils how our local eggs that we use in cooking school meals are free range and Laid in Britain standards and what this means. The teacher told us: “I know that the children really benefited from listening to someone with his knowledge of hens and allowed them to have a rich learning experience. This fitted so beautifully with their work on hens so far, albeit just the eight Wicor ones! They were buzzing with knowledge for the rest of the day and were amazed with some of the facts that they learnt from him. I don't think they can get over how many eggs are laid in one day!”

In another school pupils learned how the fruit from the New Forest is so colourful and delicious and used in school desserts.

We also asked local food group Hampshire Fare to team up with us for a co-ordinated approach for one event so that in class groups pupils learned about cheese making and sampled different Hampshire cheeses from Lyburn Cheese, and different breads from the a ‘real bread maker’ the Honest Bread Company. This fitted in perfectly with the real bread cooked in HC3S school kitchens every day.

Pupils were so keen on the food they tried that they asked where to buy products which was encouraging to see as it showed they were positive about British food.

Year five teacher at Bartley C of E Junior School, Rob Walter, said: “Their event was fun and fascinating, with local producers wowing the children with their lovely products and their descriptions of how they were produced and brought to market. The children had a great time, enjoying some delicious treats and they learned a lot.”

All HC3S catered schools (including those in Wiltshire and Dorset) were given details of how we were celebrating British Food Fortnight in the summer term of 2018 when they were able to personalise their British food menu from a range of meat and meat-free options such as cheese and tomato or beef pasties; desserts included a New Forest strawberry swirl ice cream flavour produced especially for the event and hand-made cupcakes using British family farm Yeo Valley fruit yoghurt to sweeten the cakes instead of using so much sugar; this was followed up in September 2018 with more details of our events via our schools e-newsletter. Posters used the Love British Food template to advertise events. Details were highlighted to 14,000 signed up Hampshire residents in the local authority’s e-newsletter ‘Your Hampshire’.We used our active Facebook channel to reach, inform and engage as many parents as possible about how we were celebrating British Food Fortnight.

In advance of British Food Fortnight, we wanted to involve the children in shaping the themed BFF lunch menu so we ran a school competition to creative an innovative new product which would feature; promoting the competition with an entry flyer, the results were far higher than anticipated; 45 schools took part and we received over 1000 entries.

The product had to be school compliant and comprised from a list of ingredients from each of the eat well guide elements. The final product was a lemon flavoured cheesy salmon and vegetable croquette with the winner decided by filtering the most popular ingredient choices from each entrant to see who included them all. The winner received a trip to the local aquarium, courtesy of our Grimsby fish supplier, and runners up received British fish and chip suppers.

School caterers often shy away from learning about fish. However, by partnering with Seafood.Org, and asking fish suppliers and local fishmongers to donate the fish for our event, we organised for ambassador chefs to go into schools to reduce negative perceptions from pupils around fish; we did this through hands-on learning and made it a full sensory experience. Pupils in different year groups and after school clubs had the opportunity to see, smell, touch, feel and taste fish.

We really changed their initial perceptions about fish; pupils told us they were no longer scared to see fish with heads and eyes or try new foods and this was because the events were held in a fun and engaging way, pupils. Pupils learned about sustainability and what fish to catch on their doorstep and how fish is the ultimate in fast-food. Parents were also invited to join the after-school cookery club where we ‘reeled them in’ and ‘caught their imagination’ by watching a fish chowder being cooked, tasting smoked salmon for the first time and seeing demonstrations of how to fillet fish.

Several pupils at Mudeford Infant School remarked that it was the best school day they’d ever had, entirely unprompted. Pupils saw a live lobster as well as John Dory, monkfish, sprats, Dover sole, mackerel, rainbow trout.

Mudeford Junior Year 6 teacher gave us this feedback: “We had a fantastic workshop last week at school learning about fish. The children were really engaged and learnt (and ate) a lot of new things.”

The buzz at one school was unprecedented as year two and three pupils couldn’t contain their sheer excitement at seeing and tasting fish for the first time. After smelling thyme, they saw it cooked with mussels and cream to create a simple yet tasty dish. Pupils asked to keep the shells as a reminder of the event, although all pupils at our fish events were rewarded for being so adventurous with ‘I ate fish today’ if they sampled fish. If children could name lots of fish species or were now positive towards fish they received stickers such as ‘fish are fabulous’. At other events children were given stickers saying ‘I tried something new’ or ‘I know about healthy eating’ if they tried the food on offer or demonstrated during the event that they learned about eating healthily.

We tapped into our school communities to reach as many families as possible during British Food Fortnight. We also purposely picked schools in disadvantaged areas with high levels of free school meals where pupils would not have tasted a variety of fish before. Pupils experienced taste of fish such as mackerel, mussels and chowder for the very first time, as they had generally only ever experienced fish and chips and tinned tuna.

Executive Member for Education and Skills, Human Resources and Performance, Councillor Stephen Reid, said: “We’re very proud of our school meals at Hampshire County Council. HC3S, our catering business, works extremely hard to source local, sustainable healthy food. This is a valuable hands-on experience, that we hope will inspire children to eat well and enjoy local produce.”

Key highlights and measurements:

  • Over 300 schools participated in ‘build your own’ British food theme day lunches (including a Harvest option) to celebrate how great British food is and many held an event in both weeks; this was an innovative approach and ambitious in having so much choice but we wanted to convey the amazing variety of British food available. Servery counters were decorated in British flags to add to the theme.
  • Launch – school council tour at British trout farm and relay back to whole school, video produced to sum up the day’s learning
  • Ran two fish-themed learning and tasting events in Dorset and two in Hampshire, resulting in a change of pupils’ perceptions
  • Over 300 schools took part in the theme day lunch resulting in approx. 45,000 British school themed meals
  • HC3S secondary schools provided ‘British specials’ across the fortnight
  • All 478 schools where HC3S provide the catering were given educational fish resource workbooks and teaching resources ahead of British Food Fortnight
  • During BFF, 419 pupils took part in talks and tasting. 87% said they liked fish more
  • 96% knew more about healthy eating.

Social media

HC3S used Hampshire County Council’s corporate twitter feed to tweet about what we were doing. HC3S used its own Facebook education page @hc3seducation to share Love British Food’s posts, Hampshire Fare posts and to promote ourselves.


HC3S Facebook page (education page):

No of HC3S Posts Reach No of Likes No of shares/comments No of launch Video Views
13 23,260 79 74 3,190

We also ran a Facebook poll over the fortnight which gave us the following results:

92% of our Facebook poll said they always buy British food when shopping for groceries.

8% said they rarely buy British.