"Access to healthy food as never been so important. Chartwells nutritionists and chefs have spent the past few months developing modified menus, based on feedback from over 4,000 children and parents, that keep nutrition and great taste at their core," he said.
Chartwells has also been working with schools to create Covid secure dining areas and solutions, with a number of measures introduced such as increased hand sanitising stations, enhanced cleaning between sittings and staggered dining times to help students stay in their bubbles and maintain social distancing.
How children will access their meals is also key and the Chartwells teams have been focusing on making the food accessible and easy to transport. In response to the challenges of delivering food while respecting social distancing, the teams have introduced new ways to get the food to children such as specially designed cardboard lunch boxes and environmental friendly bento boxes.
Plus, all partnerships have seen the introduction of specially designed collateral to encourage engagement and social distancing. These include welcome back posters, nutritional information and stickers to help children keep their distance. This is alongside heightened training for staff who are working in a Covid safe environment.
Chartwells ability to respond quickly to the Coronavirus pandemic, enabled them to provide critical support to over 1500 schools during the crisis and develop best practice. Chartwells worked to keep the majority of its school kitchens open during the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, to support key worker and vulnerable children and later increased catering to support the gradual reopening to specific year groups. This period has put them on the front foot in implementing cleaning and hygiene measures, plus enabling their teams to test catering procedures at lower volumes if required.
Additionally, Chartwells also supported the education sector by enabling schools to access an emergency schools meals support service during the lockdown period, ensuring children did not go without meals during this challenging time.
Chartwells will also be working with each school to support in educating and informing children about health and wellbeing. They have created a suite of resources appropriate to the current environment, including the Super Yummy Kitchen YouTube channel, which children and families can utilise at home or within schools as cook along videos. Super Yummy Kitchen has been a great success featuring Chartwells Culinary Director, Andrew Walker as well as CBBC celebrity chef and Leon co-founder Allegra McEvedy. Schools are also able to access webinars and virtual interactive sessions for pupils, with accompanying materials.
During the summer, over 100 new schools started working with Chartwells, joining the 2,700 primaries, secondaries, academies and independents, which are already supported by the business.
Brown added: “We’re delighted to be welcoming new schools into the Chartwells family. School meals are more important than ever. For some children it guarantees that they get one nutritious meal a day, so it’s vital for young people’s health and wellbeing, as well as educational attainment. Our lunchtime offer will also help children get back into their routine, offering comforting familiarity.
“We have also invested heavily in online education and interactive materials. Recognising that the majority of children were being home schooled during lockdown, our YouTube channel provided easy to follow recipes to keep children engaged and informed, encouraging them to cook too. Following its success, we are continuing to develop new content which can be used both within the school day to support teachers, or for parents with their children at home.”
In 2018 Chartwells’ launched a dedicated health and wellbeing programme, Beyond the Chartwells Kitchen, which helps tackle issues like childhood obesity. As part of this there was a focus on holiday provision and since then they have reached over 4,000 children in school breaks alone and trained around 70 holiday lunch club volunteers. This work continued throughout the 2020 summer holidays, with Chartwells supporting several organisations with food provision and resources.
Watch the Chartwells Back to School safely video to see these initiatives brought to life: