Earlier this year, Jamie Oliver and his team launched The Jamie Oliver Good School Food Awards to shine a light on catering teams, canteens, allotments, food educators, holiday programmes, and campaigners who have made positive change in their communities.
There were almost 2000 entries from schools across the UK, which an expert panel had the tough job of shortlisting before celebrity judges, including Mary Berry, Jessica-Ennis Hill, Greg James, Joe Wicks, chose the winners.
Across eight categories in the inaugural 2023 awards, the chosen winners would receive money-can’t-buy prizes, including home kitchens fitted out with Tefal’s latest products, a special cooking class at The Jamie Oliver Cookery School, a TikTok content masterclass, a kitted-out library, and much, much more. Winners also receive a Golden Spoon Gong, which can be proudly displayed, helping to showcase their devotion to the foodie cause.
Meet the award winners
Winners for the awards have been announced in recent weeks, and you can get to know them and why they’ve been chosen by the judges. Congratulations to everyone!
1. Early Years Award
Winner: Prestonfield Nursery, Edinburgh, Scotland
Judged by: Demi Stokes
Presented by: George Webster
It was Prestonfield’s Family Cooking initiative that really caught the judges’ attention, inviting families into the nursery for cooking sessions…
At this nursery, more than 70% of the children live in the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) band 1-3, the lowest band of 10. These cooking sessions not only inspire a love of food, but also enable children to take home a healthy meal the whole family can share and easily replicate – helping those struggling financially, while also getting everyone to spend time together, continuing the fun at home. Win-win!
The setting’s multicultural staff developed five delicious recipes for the initiative, including Italian, Indian and Mexican dishes. The project brings everyone joy: the families love the sessions, as it means they can share more than just food (cooking ideas, food bank locations, no-food-waste sites), while the nursery likes to see everyone getting together (the three lead staff go the extra mile every week to ensure the families have the best experience).
It’s so successful that school funding has been secured to buy utensils and a new cooker. There are also plans for a Grow Your Own area, and to expand the number of cooking stations to involve as many families as possible moving forward.
2. The One Show’s Rising Star Award
Winner: Silver Springs Primary Academy, Stalybridge
Judged and presented by: Mary Berry and Alex Jones
Chef Mr Banham is a culinary hero at Silver Springs, with the children raving about his delicious seasonal meals – which is no mean feat!
The school is located in a diverse community and has a high proportion of children on free school meals, so making sure they have exciting, nutritious meals every day is really important. Mr Banham delivers that and more, all with a reduced team, failing equipment and a limited budget.
It’s not only staff and children who rave about his menus, but visitors too! He’s introduced initiatives including Meat-Free Fridays, a specials board, special menu days, a Jubilee street party, and a cooking club three times a week. And Mr Banham understands that one of the best ways to encourage the children to connect with nature and understand about sustainable living is by using seasonal ingredients, which he picks from the school’s very own allotment.
He and his team know all the children individually and regularly go the extra mile for them, managing some highly specialised diets for children with special educational needs. They’ve even managed to reach the holy grail of increasing the amount of fruit, veg and salad pupils eat. We think it’s fair to say that Mr Banham has achieved a hero-like status in the school thanks to his passion and love for food.
3. Heart FM’s Community & Kindness Award
Winner: Joyce Tanoh-Mensah, The Belsteads School, Chelmsford
Judged by: George Webster and Loyle Carner
Presented by: Amanda Holden and Jamie Theakston
Budge up, we want a seat at Joyce’s table! Not only does she cook amazing meals from scratch, her sunny outlook makes the dining hall a home-from-home.
Staff at this independent special education and mental health school say that Joyce has improved their food offering beyond recognition. Her freshly cooked dinners include food from all around the world, so it’s no surprise that the uptake of meals has increased significantly since Joyce took over the cooking.
But it was also Joyce’s warm and welcoming manner that meant she clinched this award. She’s made the kitchen and dining room the heart of the school, and a place where kids want to eat together and hang out. In school she’s known as 'Mama Joyce' and it’s easy to see why.
4. Youth Activist of the Year
Winner: Saffron from Portsmouth
Judged by: Big Has, Seema Pankhania and Luke Hall
Presented by: Luke Hall and Jimi Famuwera
When Saffron talks, people should listen. She channels her personal experience to lobby government officials for a fairer food system.
Saffron has been a Young Food Ambassador for the Children’s Right2Food campaign for four years. Her personal experience means she talks passionately about food poverty stigma and barriers to accessing an affordable, healthy diet. And there’s no doubt policymakers listen to her – she’s met with her MP to discuss Free School Meals and goes to regular meetings with the former Children’s Minister and Department for Education Officials.
Then when the cost-of-living crisis crashed in, Saffron met with supermarket heavyweight Sainsbury’s to ask them how they could better support low-income families – which resulted in a £2 veg box pilot in 200 stores.
5. Sustainability Award
Winner: Prospect House Specialist Support Primary School, Manchester
Judged by: Greg James
Presented by: Demi Stokes
Prospect House Primary School understands that prioritising sustainability in school is prioritising students’ futures.
Prospect House have gone the extra mile to ensure their school is as sustainable as possible. They introduced Meat-Free Mondays, as well as offsetting their meat consumption with plant-based meal alternatives (with students embracing this change whole-heartedly!).
As well as regular recycling areas, they also have a food waste station that measures the school’s daily food waste, so they can tweak menu options according to student’s tastes and minimise waste. Food caddies in every classroom also ensure all food waste in school is recycled. There’s even an ‘Eco Warriors’ termly theme, which encourages children to think about sustainability outside of school by looking at areas of food, health, nature (biodiversity), energy, recycling, transport and climate.
Outside of the school building they’re growing ingredients they can use in the school kitchen, compost bins decompose any food and garden waste – and let’s not forget the two therapy pigs Sebastian and Dolores, who eat any leftover fruit and veg, and help the children learn about how to look after animals.
6. School Leader Hero
Winner: Helena Honeybone, Town Field Primary School, Doncaster
Judged and presented by: Jessica Ennis-Hill
Helena Honeybone is a headteacher who, along with her team, is on a mission to ensure every child in her school is fed properly.
Helena believes that children should have access to a nutritious daily meal without passing rising costs onto families. She always prioritises the needs of her children, going above and beyond to ensure that food is incorporated into their education, helping staff weave health themes into their lessons. Children also find the fun in food by learning to cook their own meals. And she supports Chef Andy who makes magic happen in the canteen with his powerhouse team.
During the pandemic, Helena worked tirelessly to ensure that food parcels or vouchers were organised and passed out to those in need, sometimes delivering them herself. We know that Helena would say this was a huge team effort, which it was, but she led from the front and put the needs and health of the children at the heart of it all.
7. Food Educator of the Year
Winner: Jackie Dean, Carshalton Boys Sports College
Judged and presented by: Jamie Oliver
We know it’s the passion and drive of the food educators that can make all the difference – and that’s certainly the case for Jackie.
The thing is, Jackie, who is head of Food Studies at the school, understands that teaching food is more than just about cooking. These lessons develop literacy, numeracy and functional skills, as well as helping students feel included in a school community. And at Carshalton that’s even more important, as they have lots of international children. Jackie and her assistant Michelle Hepburn take these children under their wings and teach them that studying food can be cool!
Jackie, along with Michelle, helps the children become more aware of their own diets, while introducing them to delicious new foods. They also regularly invite professionals (including Jamie and Raymond Blanc) into school, which of course is a highlight! And with children from all over the world – Greece, Turkey, Ghana, to name a few – they explore a fantastic variety of cuisines, which ensures lessons are as fun and flavoursome as they can be.
8. The Sun’s Catering Team of the Year
Winner: Wyre Forest School, Kidderminster
Judged and presented by: Joe Wicks
Everyone loves chef James Sommerville and his super-inspiring team and it’s not hard to see why – they ensure all of the kids are well fed.
As well as providing a range of healthy, nutritious main courses and puddings each day, James and the team – Lynda, Carla and Alison – also prep different breads and a salad bar, so there’s lots of choice, and lunchtimes are something all the students look forward to. The children who go to Wyre Forest have a wide range of special educational needs, which means the team caters for those who need puréed food, those who are peg-fed and for many types of allergies and dietary requirements. But nothing is too much trouble for James and the team.
The team's attention to detail is second-to-none. They will notice if one of the 331 students aren't eating properly; or if their eating habits have changed. They then work with class staff and the child to find out how they can be tempted to broaden their choices.
But not only do the catering team look after the children’s appetites, they also help them develop usable skills, by offering sixth-form students work experience, teaching them about food hygiene as well as how to serve food. This is such a brilliant support, as this often isn’t possible in the same way with external companies.
About The Good School Food Awards
The Jamie Oliver Good School Food Awards celebrate all that is brilliant about the UK’s school system and the wider food systems in place for children.
From head teachers to dinner ladies, pupils to politicians, the awards honour those unsung heroes who go the extra mile to make sure the next generation of children are well fed at school, so they can concentrate on what’s really important: learning.