Labels that can teach children a lesson in healthy food choice

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A PIONEERING scheme which allows the school meal service to cut costs and promote healthy eating, has been launched by North Yorkshire County Council.

The system – set up with the help of Sheffield-based firm FormKraft – also helps the authority’s high school and college canteens compete with high street food outlets such as Costa Coffee.

It is already helping to keep pupils on-site during breaks, by offering slicker and more informative packaging on the 350,000 packaged sandwiches, salads, fruit and meals sold each year.

It has also allowed the service to introduce healthy, low fat, gluten free, dairy free and vegetarian options, by designing and making new labels available quickly and efficiently.

The equipment, developed by FormKraft, is helping to streamline labelling on sandwiches and other products in school dining halls and save the authority around £10,000 over the next three years.

The system had to overcome a number of challenges – including being able to programme in all of the 137 sandwich fillings offered by North Yorkshire.

Now, printers and keyboards located at each of the 32 canteens across the county, allow staff to access centrally-created labelling and print out what is required to meet local demand.

The system allows staff to react to the products which prove popular at their outlets, as well as the food available to them, with chiller-safe labelling and a thermal transfer printer, which cuts out ink costs.

Nick Postma, deputy manager of County Caterers, said: “The new system encourages trials of speciality sandwiches and a range which is encouraging staff and pupils to eat more regularly in the canteen as, if staff eat with us by choice, more pupils tend to follow suit.

“We can easily introduce more varieties of bread and healthier options in a slick, well labelled, quality controlled manner – for example, using a slogan such as ‘On Your Way To Five A Day’.

“This is leading to an increase in sales of healthy options and we are ahead of the game and more efficient as a result.”

The catering service has invested £20,000 setting up the new system. The look and design of the new labels gives a high street feel to the products on offer – which have been redesigned and now include on-pack pricing – which is helping attract more young customers.

They are also printed out on a special cream background, after research appeared to show that this helped people with dyslexia.

Simon Lindsell, director of FormKraft Distribution Ltd, said: “This was a challenging project but we believe the solution we have delivered for North Yorkshire is something that can be adopted across the country.

“North Yorkshire now has standardised and professional looking labelling on a par with anything on the high street – in a system that is easy to manage and use.”