The school meals service on Wearside has clinched national recognition once again.
The Sunderland City Council service gained the accolade for consistently providing fresh, healthy locally sourced meals.
The service which provides meals in 83 primary, special and nursery schools across the city, serving meals to more than 13,000 children a day, has been awarded a Food for Life Catering Mark by the national Soil Association.
These annual awards recognise caterers who demonstrate commitment to producing fresh, nutritious food using locally sourced produce and meat, eggs and dairy produce from suppliers who meet UK animal welfare standards.
Meals must also be prepared fresh, daily and meet government guidelines for food and nutrition.
In recent years Sunderland City Council has invested £3.7m in refurbishing school kitchens and dining facilities, and has regularly been shortlisted for best performing education caterer through the Association of Public Service Excellence's national performance awards.
Sunderland City Council Portfolio Holder for City Services, Councillor Michael Mordey said: “We’re delighted that our Schools Meals Service has achieved the Food for Life Catering Mark.
"Working together we have always strived to serve fresh and nutritious meals to pupils in our schools, and this national award recognises that commitment.
“It’s always pleasing when an independent body such as the Soil Association acknowledges the good work of our service providers, and the Food for Life Catering Mark is a welcome reminder of the high quality of our school meal provision.”
Gary Mellefont, headteacher at North View Academy in South Hylton, said: “It’s very important to us that our children are served fresh, healthy and tasty meals every day, as we believe this has an impact on performance and behaviour in the classroom.
“We are delighted, therefore, that the school meals service has achieved this award and confirmed what we already knew – that they provide a really high quality, value for money service that is an integral part of our school day”
Chief Executive of Soil Association Certification, Martin Sawyer added: “The Catering Mark is an excellent achievement which recognises the vital role that fresh, seasonal meals play in healthy, planet-friendly menus, especially for large-scale catering.
“It reassures customers that their meals are free from genetically modified ingredients and trans fats, and prepared from scratch. A huge congratulations to Sunderland City Council on achieving the Catering Mark.”