National School Meal Week 2022 – an interview with the Trust Catering manager


This week is National School Meals Week so we took the opportunity to speak with Trust Catering Lead, Dee Formby. LACA are focusing on ‘green issues’ with NSMW running at the same time as COP27.

LACA - the school food people; are focusing on ‘green issues’ with NSMW running at the same time as COP27. School caterers across the country are working hard to lessen the impact the industry has on the planet and that is certainly the case for REAchEat, our Academy Trust’s in house school food provision.

For #NSMW22 our CEO, Cathie Paine, caught up with Dee Formby, Trust catering Lead.

Dee Formby

I know you believe passionately that all children should be eating a healthy school meal – tell me a bit more about this and your vision for school food. What should all REAch2 schools be able to provide?

School meals are more than food on a plate. The advantages of our children having a healthy, satisfying meal at school are far reaching. Whether it be for their own health or their reaching their potential at school, we should be striving to show them and their families that the food served at school is tasty, exciting and a part of their school experience.

There’s no doubt about it, the tastes of children are not the same as ours. Food that we think is great / traditional does not always translate into empty plates and uptake figures. Careful analysis of current meal uptake helps shape future menus, collaboration with catering teams and our children ensures that each school, whilst part of our Trust, has a menu that meets the individual requirements of the school and their children.

girl at salad bar picking food to eat

You have been a real driving force behind community fridges. For those in the Trust who may not be aware of this scheme can you give us the highlights?

The community fridge scheme launched in 2019 at Unity Primary Academy along with another 4 schools who took part in the pilot. Working with Amica CDA, the generous sponsor of the scheme, 16 schools across the trust now benefit from a Community Fridge with a waiting list available for any school from the trust interested in taking part.

Locally, schools are working with supermarkets and Fare Share’s national network of charitable food redistributors alongside their own surplus of healthy portioned meals, direct from the school kitchen.

Fridges are positioned carefully in discreet areas away from crowded corridors and are free from any potential stigma or data collection. Beccles Academy is our flagship school, who took the mission of the Community Fridge and developed a robust support structure within the school, including second hand uniforms, toys, books, a swap shop and even a parent cafe twice a week.

a boy eating lunch at school

The theme for NSMW 2022 is ‘Go Green School Lunch’. Are there any schools that you can highlight that have introduced more sustainable practices in their school meal provision such as ‘Meat Free Mondays’?

Reach2Eat menus are produced twice a year, featuring Meat Free Mondays and plant-based meals. We also cater for Vegans, vegetarians, dietary requirements, and lifestyle choices. Schools have already reduced their reliance on plastic containers and pots, as well as changing to recyclable cling film and the aim is for all schools to recycle plastics, tins, and food waste. This supports the Trust’s 5-year strategy which includes Sustainability goals.

Unity Primary Academy are leading the way in school meals week and taking part each day and will be joined by the Mayor and Mayoress of Colchester on Friday.

An aim is to make our schools more energy efficient by upgrading their ovens, some of which require 40% less working time, use 18% less energy and reduce cost of goods by up to 15% compared to older models.

Even with rising food costs, Camulos, Sprites, Phoenix, Gunton and Beccles still use local producers of fruit and veg to supply their fruit and salad bars and the main supplier, Thomas Ridleye, are based in Suffolk.

REAch2 Announces Cathie Paine As New Chief Executive

REAch2 Academy Trust is pleased to announce Cathie Paine as our new CEO. She will be replacing Sir Steve Lancashire, who is leaving after 10 years at the helm.

Cathie Paine is an exceptional leader with a long record of securing educational improvements at school and system leadership level and since 2012 has played a pivotal role as Deputy Chief Executive of the REAch2 Trust, creating the design of the Trust and overseeing its growth.

Appointed in 1998 to her first headship in a large school in the Ofsted “special measures” category, Cathie was at the time the youngest headteacher in England. She transformed the school, leading it to become “Good” in just four terms. Shaped by this, Cathie retains her passion for enabling children to flourish in an environment of outstanding practice.

This commitment to providing exceptional opportunities for learning is at the heart of the REAch2 model for school improvement through support, challenge and collaboration. The results speak for themselves with 87% of academies that have been inspected by Ofsted since joining REAch2, now graded as “Good” or “Outstanding” schools. To put this in context, just 17% of schools were “Good” or “Outstanding” before joining the Trust and 49% were “Inadequate”.

Gavin Robert, Chair of REAch2 said:

“We are confident that, in Cathie’s excellent hands, REAch2 has an exciting future and – thanks to our hard-working, dedicated staff – it will continue to benefit the children, families and communities within its reach. Both I and the whole Trust Board look forward to supporting Cathie in the development of a continued compelling vision for the Trust.”

In response to her appointment, Cathie said: “I am absolutely delighted to be appointed as CEO and I look forward to building on the strengths of the first ten years. We will continue our unremitting commitment to the children’s education and will broaden our horizons to respond to wider challenges, ensuring that tens of thousands of children are fully prepared for the changing world around them.”