Wednesday, 5 May 2010

LACA / PKL School Kitchens Design Forum – London South Bank Centre

The latest LACA/PKL School Kitchen Design forum, held in London in February, addressed key issues relating to provision of school meals and associated facilities. Sponsored by PKL and the Local Authority Caterers Association, the event was attended by around 50 delegates representing local authorities, consultants and other stakeholders.

LACA Chair Beverly Baker opened the proceedings with a focus on the importance of school meals and associated facilities – in the context of the changing educational environment and the higher profile of nutrition amongst young people.

Continuing this theme, Liz Randall from the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) explored the proposed amendments to regulations governing dining space and nutritional standards in school premises. It was clear from this presentation that improved facilities for both the preparation and consumption of food will play an even more important role in the future.

Factors influencing the take-up of school meals was the theme of a presentation by Linda Smith of the School Food Trust, who presented the findings of the School Lunch & Learning Behaviour Study. This study showed quite clearly that improving the dining room environment could play a pivotal role in increasing the acceptability of school meals to pupils.

The focus of the day then switched to the design and delivery of school kitchens. Robert Danks of Food Chain Solutions outlined a recent case study with Northamptonshire County Council, rolling out their “Hot Meal” plan in schools. Paul Saer of Buying Solutions followed, providing an overview of the Buying Solutions agency and John Robinson from PKL finished the first session with a presentation on PKL Group’s school kitchen solutions, including a number of case study examples.

After a lively question and answer session, delegates were then asked to work in groups to produce brief presentations for fellow delegates, covering their own successes and difficult situations in relation to planning kitchens and learning from operational use

Successes included training, marketing school meals and the use of regeneration kitchens. Areas of difficulty included the BB99 regulations, failure of architects, planners and contractors to listen to the people who will be running the facilities and a lack of understanding by head teachers. Funding for improving facilities was also perceived as a barrier to taking plans forward.

Following this interactive session the forum concluded with a presentation from Vic Laws of AVL Consulting, presenting the findings of a recent study into energy efficiency in school kitchens.

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