Menu diversity in primary school catering celebrated at the Be Different Federation

  • Rachel Stern - Leader of Operations Be Different Federation

Celebrating diversity with shared core values across a federation of schools

The Be Different Federation is a group of 3 schools in the London borough council of Merton – Lonesome Primary, Singlegate Primary and William Morris Primary. For the last number of years the Federation had purchased their school meal provision from the local authority through a contract caterer but felt that the service didn’t meet their requirements. The Federation wanted to be able to offer a lunch service that met the needs of their pupils and staff and wasn’t generic across a larger group of schools; although only a 20 minute drive separates the 3 schools, the cohort across the Federation is quite diverse and something that the schools wanted to celebrate in their menu offer. They also wanted to invest in their catering staff and kitchen environment as these hadn’t received adequate attention in recent years.

As the end of the catering contract drew near and with menu diversity top of their wish list, the Federation looked around at other primary school catering providers but knew that they only offered them a similar service to what they already had. They felt that they could deliver the catering better themselves but were concerned that they didn’t have the catering knowledge to achieve this safely and successfully. When the Operations Leadership Team, Jane Christopherson and Rachel Stern, heard about the catering management support that CMC offer, they realised that this could be their solution; a primary school catering service where the decisions are made by the Federation but with the peace of mind that catering safety and know how is met by a catering expert, with full management support for the day-to-day running of the service.

Mutual values

Our initial meetings with Jane and Rachel were really positive, we shared the same values and goals of wanting to provide children with a good quality, hot meal within school. We discussed with them what they wanted to change within their service, how they wanted to achieve this and how they felt it should work across the 3 schools. Discussions with the Federation’s Governing Body went well and CMC were appointed to work with the Be Different Federation to improve their primary schools catering with their dedicated CMC Consultant, Gary Lines.

Management support

Gary lost no time in getting to work with the Federation; new suppliers were arranged, menus agreed and orders placed through the CMC Tracker system. Gary also introduced the CMC safety systems to each kitchen and all the catering staff received training on the safe systems of work. The schools invested in a new combination oven and hot counter for Singlegate Primary and a new freezer for Lonesome, ensuring that the kitchens could work efficiently.

The Federation named their new catering service BeFed Differently and a logo was designed to accompany their menus. Each Catering Manager has access to the CMC tracker system which allows them greater choice when ordering products, so ensuring that they can serve a quality lunch to their pupils.

Positive results

After the first school term the Federation are extremely pleased with their new catering service. They are enjoying the ability to effect change when they want to; they’re currently reviewing their initial school menus and assessing what has and hasn’t worked for them so that they can make improvements to Be Fed better!

“It’s going really well and a lot of that is thanks to Gary and the team – they’ve definitely gone above and beyond.

It’s been hard work getting the catering team up to speed with all the new systems, and developing new ways of doing things. BUT – the food is delicious, food sales are significantly up and everyone is delighted so it’s been worth the hard work.

We definitely don’t regret bringing it in house – onwards and upwards!”

Be Different Federation
Rachel Stern, Business Manager

“It’s going really well and a lot of that is thanks to Gary and the team - they've definitely gone above and beyond. 

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