VALE of Glamorgan schools have begun benefitting from the Big Fresh Catering Company’s innovative business model as figures for the first instalment of its profit sharing scheme are announced.
Operating as a Local Authority Trading Company, the Big Fresh Catering Company has been expanding and enhancing operations, both to schools and across the wider hospitality sector.
This has helped generate new revenue streams to support schools across the county.
Recently, a new café opened at the Penarth Pier Pavilion selling a range of hot and cold drinks and own brand coffee blends, prepared by trained baristas, and a fresh menu featuring locally-sourced ingredients.
The venture also has a no single-use plastic policy, supporting the council’s Project Zero initiative, which aims to address the issue of climate change.
One of the most interesting features of the venture is the social enterprise and not-for-private-profit element at the heart of the business’s ethos.
None of the company directors are salaried and the council, as the only shareholder, has not drawn any money from the company, with all profits either given to local schools or reinvested back into the business.
Schools use that money to improve their meal provision and complement learning and teaching.
Some will also be invested in communities and used to purchase items such as football kit, helping to promote a healthy lifestyle.
New ventures such as the café at the pier have offered secondment opportunities for existing school meal staff to develop their skills and created new jobs at a time when many were struggling for employment.
Cllr Lis Burnett, Vale of Glamorgan Council Cabinet member for Education and Regeneration, said: “This is a truly ground-breaking scheme, which we believe to be the first of its kind operated by a local authority.
“A challenging financial climate calls for innovation as we look to reshape the way in which services are delivered.
“This is a perfect example of how a creative approach can improve the outcomes we’re committed to and at the same time boost efficiency and significantly improve how we operate.
“Every customer that visits the Big Fresh Café, orders a grazing platter online or buys school dinners is investing directly in schools, allowing them to offer pupils more in the form of better school meals and other benefits.”
Carole Tyley, Managing Director of the Big Fresh Catering Company, said: “I’m thrilled that this year more than £500,000 will be invested into schools, community groups and go towards supporting commercial operations.
“Money will reach schools in a variety of ways, through a direct grant, a shared fund to provide out-of-school support programmes and through investment into new ingredients, menu items and technologies to reflect the needs and requests of our Big Fresh customers and schools.”
The Big Fresh Catering Company recently launched a Facebook page and since August has been delivering grazing platters, afternoon teas and ploughman’s lunches around the Vale.
There are also seasonal cakes boxes and treats available for events such as Halloween, Christmas, Mother’s Day and Easter.