As consumers become ever more aware of food provenance and its importance for welfare (as well as taste), so it becomes increasingly important for caterers to ensure that their food is sustainably and ethically sourced. With a focus on cooking fresh food from scratch, Independents by Sodexo is renowned for the seasonality, provenance and freshness of its menus. Behind this approach lies a strategic approach to managing our supply chain, building trusting, mutually beneficial and long-term relationships with suppliers.
All our suppliers are vetted by an internal vendor governance team, visited on site, and required to sign our animal welfare policy. Sodexo has had MSC certification for its sites since 2010 – our aim is to make sure all fish we supply is sustainably sourced. Uniquely among independent school caterers, all our fresh meat and dairy is Red Tractor certified. This means that it is sourced in the UK from farmers who ensure conditions meet stringent EU standards on animal welfare.
Sodexo has become the first caterer to supply pork and eggs from Freedom Foods suppliers – where welfare standards are set by the RSPCA – to all its 70-plus independent schools. For a supplier to gain the Freedom Foods certification, animals must be free to roam and express natural behaviours. Our main pork supplier for pork and sausages is Freedom Foods farmer Dingley Dell, a family-run Suffolk business where all pigs are reared outdoors.
As part of a holistic approach in independent schools, we are also committed to educating pupils on the benefits of eating sustainably. We have produced point-of-sale and counter-top materials which aim to explain certification marks such as MSC and Red Tractor in simple terms. We work closely with the MSC, who have visited several of our schools to talk about fish conservation using their mascot Murdoch the Cat and have provided additional lesson plans and materials for our catering managers to deliver in schools.
We are also using our ‘2Eat’ school Twitter accounts to give students and their parents information about the provenance of the food we serve to them, using competitions to build engagement.
As to the future, Sodexo will continue to focus on welfare, sustainability and applying the highest possible standards to the food we serve in our schools.
Jeremy Alderton is managing director, Independents by Sodexo