2020: a year to forget or a year to remember?

Sponsored: Deborah Homshaw, managing director at CH&CO Independent, reflects on the challenges and triumphs in education catering this year and their impact

As we look to the end of the year I, like many, will reflect on what has been an extraordinary year. There have, of course, been tales of sorrow and tragedy, but we’ve also seen unsurpassed care and heroism plus great innovation, creativity and agility.

Back in February, we launched the Education Board by CH&CO. This exciting cross-school sector initiative was set up to address and take action around the prominent issues of physical and mental health and sustainability through food and nutrition. Soon after we found ourselves dealing with the immediate impact of Covid-19 and a national lockdown.

As we navigated these unprecedented times, it struck me that the words and aspirations of the Education Board could not have been more on point. I’m truly pleased to see the matter of children’s food and nutrition being escalated higher and higher on the national and political agenda.

Only by tackling this head on will we hope to make a difference to future generations’ health both physically and mentally. I fervently hope, that whilst we never face these same challenges again, that we do indeed remember and continue to utilise all the positive things that we have gained in the face of adversity.

Community spirit and national pride in all our key workers, from hospitals and care homes to emergency services and education, and all those that support them. I unashamedly put my teams in this category.

Their resilience, determination and commitment to the children in our schools has been immeasurable and I take my hat off to each and every one of them. I am truly proud and humbled. We have had to work under extremely difficult circumstances and continue to do so. We’ve embraced a new way of working using the virtual world of Team and Zoom calls.

In fact, we’ve found being able to connect with so many people on a daily basis at a time when it’s needed most has boosted both morale and productivity.

Mobilising nigh on 300 schools for reopening in September was an unbelievable experience and required tenacity, drive and focus. It wasn’t only the physical schools that were reopening, it was also the logistics of bringing hundreds of people and indeed all our suppliers’ people back from furlough and lockdown into a very different world.

It was a difficult, and at times frustrating, process but one that all companies across the UK faced and we should all be proud of what we achieved in a short space of time.

Were there mistakes made? Of course. Was it perfect? Not always. But where perfection lies, there’s no room for growth or for improvement to flourish.

I’m truly pleased to see the matter of children’s food and nutrition being escalated higher and higher on the national and political agenda

A key learning for me this year is that we should all remember to be kinder to ourselves and each other, and accept we are fallible – that is a trait that is worth teaching children. To fail means we face adversity and learn how to cope and grow, building resilience and determination.

Many learned people will cite the great successes in life that come from people who have faced extreme adversity in their younger years; certainly something to think on.

As a self-confessed technology geek, I have enjoyed watching the power of virtual communication expand our reach to our pupils and parents. Our lockdown legacy is ‘From the Kitchen’, our virtual marketing tool that bought the excitement and interaction of the dining room into pupils’ homes when they couldn’t be physically with us.

We know that children respond well to the digital world as it’s part of their DNA and has influenced their life experiences. We must embrace their world and use it as a force for good and for education. And, in our case, to help inspire a lifelong love of good food.

We’ve loved watching our children and their families work together in their homes up and down the country making our recipes, sharing their results and having fun whilst learning about ingredients, nutrition and seasonality.

We must nurture and build on these foundations in schools and help each other to help future generations understand intrinsically nutritious, seasonally relevant food and how it will help us all and our planet as we move forward in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic. Our overriding objective continues to be to take this responsibility very seriously.

I wish you all a restful Christmas and will remember with sorrow and hope the year 2020, a year when so many battled for their lives and so many fought for a better future. Good health to you all.

From our kitchen to yours! Here’s a festive treat for pupils to enjoy in school and at home:

W: www.chandcogroup.com/education

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