Trail Causes: Chefs in Schools

We catch up with Chefs in Schools on reducing food waste and what’s next for the charity.
Gemma Holmes
Mar 2023
4 min read

We’re fortunate enough to be involved with a number of brilliant causes, ultimately aiming to support and uplift initiatives that are important to us as a team. We work with charities, not-for-profit organisations and businesses that impact real change. In our ‘Trail Causes’ series, we’ll be sharing some more information on the different organisations we’re working with.

Next up, it’s Chefs in Schools.

Chefs in Schools is a hands-on charity with a simple mission: to improve the quality of school meals and to transform food education for children.

How do they do it? We caught up with the team at Chefs in Schools to hear about how the initiative started and what they’re doing to help tackle food waste in schools.

Hello! Can you tell us a little bit about Chefs in Schools and how it started?

“While writing the School Food Plan, Henry Dimbleby tweeted asking if any chefs wanted to take over the kitchen at his children’s state school. Nicole - then Head Chef at NOPI - replied and decided to take a gamble and move into school food. Nicole was offered the job by Louise Nichols, now Exec Head at the LEAP Federation.

Nicole began training the team using a restaurant brigade system and technology - including Trail. They started making everything from scratch, baking bread and teaching children about food. The impact was felt across the school and Louise, Henry and Nicole knew they were onto something. This became the model for Chefs in Schools. Our charity was created mid-2018 to take this approach to other schools.

We now work hands-on in schools in London, the South West and Yorkshire reaching tens of thousands of pupils each day. We target areas with high levels of socio-economic deprivation, aiming to reduce food poverty, child obesity and malnutrition. We’re always looking for people who share our vision and passion about fuelling the future well.”

How much of an issue is food waste within schools in the UK?

“Food waste is a daily worry for many head chefs in schools. Some schools have a wide variance in uptake of children having a school meal, and because these change day-to-day, they make preparing meals incredibly difficult.”

How have Chefs in Schools supported reducing food waste?

“To mediate challenges surrounding food waste, one area we help with is developing a menu that means food items can be used over a few sittings (focaccia can become savoury French toast or croutons, for example). Food waste bins are monitored, but ideally weighed. Foods that have been frozen, then defrosted and reheated are noted down on Trail meaning that chefs can access that info and use it to analyse what they'll need to order in the future.

We help train midday supervisors and teachers to educate kids about scraping plates correctly (no cutlery or plastic in the food waste bins) and encourage children to eat and try more foods. We train teams on how to manage food waste by batch cooking, upcycling any leftovers (when it’s safe to do so), whole vegetable training, portion control, clever menu planning and recipe training too. We also improve the food so less is wasted - as pupils eat far more of what is on their plates.

We work with the schools, the kitchen staff and the dining hall staff to improve the kids' engagement and education with the food, which in the long term helps them in trying new things and throwing less in the bin.”

Proudest moment for Chefs in Schools so far?

“We’ve had a lot - it’s hard to choose one! Every day a child tries a new ingredient is a proud moment, or when we see chefs getting thank you cards from students. We’re proud of how quickly we’ve grown - we’re in three regions now: London, the SW and Yorkshire, reaching over 30,000 children each day, showing that exciting and tasty food can be served in schools.

We’re also proud of our work during the pandemic - we quickly set up food hubs to feed children who’d lost their free school meals. Then there’s the Hackney School of Food, which we helped create alongside Surman Weston and the LEAP Federation. In a year or so, an old building and scrap of land became a state of the art cooking kitchen and productive garden which inspires children every day, showing the impact of food education.

Thanks to funding from Clarion Housing Group’s William Sutton Prize, we’ve created a toolkit that will guide other schools through the process of creating their own food education hub - we’re very excited to see how this takes off. Take a look here:

We could go on and on about proud moments - it’s the joy of being part of an ambitious, solution-focused charity!”

What's next for Chefs in Schools?

“We have exciting plans to reach more children and support more schools. We’re developing a training programme that can be taught remotely. This will boost the confidence of school chefs, pass on skills and ensure their food is compliant with - and surpasses - the school food standards. We’re constantly evolving, developing new models to ensure our ethos and approach can work in any school. We’re trialling a new model for small schools at the moment, and we’re developing a Chefs Alliance - this will create an online community where school chefs can support each other and share ideas.

We’ll be continuing to campaign to end child food poverty - we want to see free school meal eligibility expanded so that no child goes hungry.”

If you want to find out how to support this initiative, head to the Chefs in School website for more information.

What customers are saying

"I f****** love Trail, it's taking my businesses to the next level."
Josh Paterson
"We rarely provide training to our guys, they just bought into the idea straight away. I love that I have a full visual of everyone's activity in front of me."
Katrin Toots
Compliance Manager
“It’s not a paper diary that’s covered in barbecue sauce. We have clarity over what’s done in our sites and are confident going into our audits.”
Jay Brown
“The EHO visited almost every site last year and every store was given a five star rating."
Jay Brown
Operations Chef
"We turned our Costa Checks and various compliance forms into regular tasks on Trail, which has contributed to some of the best scores we have had."
Delroy Daniels
Operations Director
"Our teams love it, it gives our managers of all levels absolute clarity on what they need to achieve every day."
James Brown
Operations Director

Rated 5/5 on