Posted on: Friday 8 April 2022
Torfaen Council's schools catering department has won an award for innovation at the Public Sector Catering Awards.
The team were nominated for the department's pioneering work to support pupils with autism who find having school dinners challenging.
They were up against four nominees at the awards, which took place in London, on Thursday.
Rachel Jowitt, Chief Officer for Neighbourhoods, Torfaen Council, said: "Winning the Innovation Award just goes to show that the School Catering Team are so much more than caterers. They innovate and look for solutions to help the people they cater for.
"On behalf of the Council I would like to congratulate the team for all of their hard work and dedication. It was fantastic to find out they have won the award, and they should all be really proud."
The team worked with Torfaen Council’s Children and Young Persons’ Autism Officer, a paediatric dietician who specialises in autism, Autism Wales and parents to develop a policy to ensure adjustments are made to the food and dining areas when needed.
They have also been awarded Autism Aware Organisation status after 150 catering staff were given autism training.
Mary Rose, school cook at George Street Primary, in Pontypool, said: “I found the autism awareness course very helpful as we have a little autistic boy in our school who sometimes has dinners. He really doesn’t like any sort of change even doesn’t like sitting in a different table. He has to be in the same place every day.
"The course helped me to understand how he sees things. The only food he will eat is meat and gravy, so when he is down for dinners I make sure this is what he has. After doing the online course I now understand more in depth as to how he struggles to cope with things.”
Cheryl Deneen, Torfaen Council’s Children and Young Persons’ Autism Officer, said: “The Torfaen Catering team has been extremely proactive in raising awareness of autism within their school catering teams across the authority.
"They are also committed to developing further opportunities for staff to extend their knowledge and understanding of the challenges children and young people with autism have around eating.
"This policy is a reflection of their commitment to work in partnership with children and young people, families and professionals. I am also proud to share that Torfaen is the first Catering Team across Wales to complete this training which is truly amazing.”
The school catering team at Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw, Pontypool, was also nominated for the Education Catering Award at the awards.
To find out more about school catering in Torfaen visit https://www.torfaen.gov.uk/en/EducationLearning/SchoolsColleges/Schoolcatering/School-Meals.aspx