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Catering Team at Co-op Academy Penny Oaks win Prestigious Award

Co-op Academy Penny Oaks has won the 'School Catering Team of the Year - Primary Award' at the LACA Yorkshire and Humber Excellence Awards 2023. 

The nomination recognises the school's outstanding catering team, led by Paula Garner, who has demonstrated inclusivity, community engagement, and the celebration of diversity in her lunches. 

With 18 nationalities represented in the school, maintaining good community links is really important. A remarkable project they are being recognised for is their work to acclimatise new Nigerian pupils. These students were not taking the meals they were entitled to at school, so Paula organised parent and child cooking sessions, allowing students to prepare dishes suitable for school meals, which the catering team could learn. This initiative introduced new meals to the school menu that all children could enjoy together.

Paula and the catering team have consistently recognised the need for diversity through their food, with cultural events and activities such as 'Day of Culture', featuring African drumming and Bhangra dancing, as well as 'Dance and Dine' sessions.

Paula conducts cooking sessions for students, teaching age-appropriate cooking skills and promoting nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. The school has partnered with Rethink Food to reduce food waste and provide fresh ingredients to families. On top of this, Paula introduced a 'Cook Off' competition for the school's teaching staff, promoting creativity and teamwork.

The school has a hydroponics system and flower gardens where children grow herbs and vegetables for school meals, promoting a sense of ownership, environmental awareness, and sustainability.

Headteacher, Michelle Khambhaita, said:

“The catering team, led by Paula, are a real asset to our school and the wider community. The events that Paula runs for our families are instrumental in building strong relationships between the school and the community. We are so proud of Paula, and it is great to see her be recognised for the impact she has on our school.”


Paula Garner said:

“I am very proud to receive this award, it is a full team effort. I love my job and working with such an amazing team!”


Dr Chris Tomlinson, CEO of Co-op Academies Trust, said:

“Paula lives and breathes the values we share and has really thought about what matters to these children and their families when it comes to the food they have access to. On top of that, she’s made it a way to bring the community together. We’re living through difficult times, and access to food for children across the country is a real concern. Penny Oaks and Co-op Academies Trust are lucky to have Paula.”