National award for school development chef

Kath Breckon.

A North Yorkshire Council school development chef whose pioneering recipes have improved meals for thousands of pupils has won a prestigious national award.

Training and development officer, Katherine Breckon, beat off fierce competition to win the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) Excellence in School Food Award for best Individual during a presentation ceremony on Thursday evening (January 25) at the Oulton Hall Hotel in Leeds.

The (APPG) Excellence in School Awards 2023/24 recognise excellence in innovation, individual commitment and provide an opportunity for those working within the school food sector a chance to step forward and shine.

The three categories for this year’s awards were groups, individuals and schools.

Mrs Breckon is a key member of NYES Catering providing healthy, tasty and nutritious meals to more than half of the schools in North Yorkshire, with the aim of bringing enjoyment to school lunchtimes with local, fresh, great quality food being at the heart of everything she does.

She develops meals and menus in-line with food trends and food standards, always looking at opportunities to create tasty meals, while reducing food waste and recipe costs. An overhaul of school meals recipes was one of Mrs Breckon’s latest projects.

North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for education, learning and skills, Cllr Annabel Wilkinson, said: “Congratulations to Kath, this is fantastic news. Kath’s recipes are always very well received and have inspired pupils to try foods they wouldn’t normally have chosen to taste.

“This award not only acknowledges our catering teams’ hard work, but also recognises the power school chefs can have to help shape future generations’ connection to food.”

Mother-of-two Mrs Breckon joined the council’s catering service 15 years ago having previously worked as a school cook at West Cliff Primary in Whitby. Speaking of her win, the Whitby resident: “I am totally blown away, it is such an incredible honour to be named the winner of such a prestigious award.

“Due to high food costs, the demand for increasing meal numbers and the development of school meals in constantly challenged on both a local and national level. As a service we have not only seen an increase in food costs, but also the amount of special dietary requirements which pupils have and an increase in pupils who are free school meals entitled – all of which has created the need to ensure we cater for as many pupils as reasonably practicable.

“Whilst looking at ways to reduce costs in our recipes, I used this opportunity to also reduce the amount of allergens present, add food waste reduction tips, and simplify recipes too. This is something that school catering staff have really appreciated.”

North Yorkshire Council’s quality manager, Joanne Simpson, added: “I’m delighted for Kath, she has an unbelievable passion for our school meal service. The award is well-deserved, a show of appreciation for all that Kath has done and continues to contribute to for the children who enjoy daily tasty, nutritious school lunches.”

The chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on School Food, MP Sharon Hodgson, said: “Each of our finalists are a shining example of the extraordinary steps being taken to ensure the food security of our children and young people.

“This APSE Seminar was a special celebration of the public services that keep our great country moving and, on behalf of everyone involved with the APPG on School Food, I want to say a huge thank you.”