North Yorkshire county councillors joined staff and pupils for a special Food for Life lunch at West Cliff Primary School in Whitby – all cooked for them by award-winning school chef Kath Breckon.

The County Council is using money from its public health grant to fund a two-year initiative which will see 20 schools in the county taking part in the Soil Association’s Food for Life programme. The programme helps pupils to learn about where their food comes from through growing it, having cookery lessons and making farm visits. West Cliff Primary School in Whitby is working towards being a Food for Life Ambassador School to help to spread the message more widely to other schools.

The school invited County Councillors Val Amold, Janet Sanderson and David Chance to join them and see for themselves how good a Food for Life lunch looks and tastes. The lunch was prepared by chef Kath Breckon and staff from North Yorkshire County Caterers, the County Council’s catering service.

Cllr Arnold, Chairman of the Council, said County Caterers prides itself on having reached the Food for Life bronze catering mark for their school meals, which means standards set by the Soil Association have to be reached, for example all eggs are free range.  

County Caterers is also proud to employ Kath, who was voted Britain’s best by a panel of professionals in a national school catering competition. The delicious meal we enjoyed with the children certainly reflected her skills,” she said.

Kath, who has worked at West Cliff Primary School, Whitby for seven and a half years, prepares meals for 140 children each day. She previously worked in local hotels and restaurants after training at Scarborough Technical College.

Cllr Chance, Executive Member for Stronger Communities and Public Health, said: “Funding the Food for Life initiative and encouraging North Yorkshire schools to take part in the programme is part of the County Council’s commitment to tackle one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st Century – childhood obesity. We have recently launched our Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives Strategy in response to this challenge.

“Supporting the Food for Life initiative complements other work under way to deliver our 0-19 Healthy Child programme, including our Healthy Choices service, which helps children and young people to work towards achieving – and then maintaining – a healthy weight by providing them and their family with the tools and information to make positive, and realistic, changes in their habits, helping them to start enjoying a healthier way of living.”

Cllr Sanderson, Executive Member for Children’s Services, said: “We fully support pupils to lead a healthier lifestyle in North Yorkshire. It is one of the key aims in our Young and Yorkshire children and young people’s plan – ensuring a healthy start to life, with more children and young people leading healthy lifestyles. Programmes such as Food for Life enable pupils to learn about the origin of their food and why eating good food, along with having an active lifestyle, really matters.

“It’s also important to emphasise that eating healthy food does not mean eating expensively. We had a great debate about the fact that giving children knowledge of cooking and food science gives them a life skill which will not only keep them healthy but save them money in later life.

“The other great debate we had was about how cooking can help children who struggle with maths. A small group of pupils who struggle with maths found being given meals to cook and cost was not a problem to them – a sort of maths lesson by the back door.

“We’ve all really enjoyed having a great Food for Life lunch and the company of all the children and staff we met at West Cliff Primary. And the school’s juke box is great as well.”