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Q&A with our Nutritionist, Marnie George

Senior Registered Nutritionist, Marnie George, a member of the Chartwells Independents team and an expert in medical diets, menu preparation, and nutrition counselling, met with us to explore pupils' nutritional needs and food distribution during the school day…

Marnie has been with us for a little over four years and uses her experience to improve the landscape of nutrition education delivery. Marnie not only supports existing and new partners, but she also supports parents and guardians on how to feed their children's brains with nutritious, high-quality meals right in their own homes!

Here’s what she had to say…

Nutrition is key to how we construct our menus at Chartwells Independents; with a 20-strong staff of nutrition and medical diet specialists - the industry's largest team of this sort - how do your teams ensure that, despite significant increases in food prices, we never compromise food quality?

We have a guided approach to quality, providing broad but focused menu choices, that are completely bespoke to each of partners schools.

We audit each individual item that we make available to our pupils, so that parents and teachers can be certain that their children are consuming the healthiest foods possible. My teams nutritionally analyse all our meals, which are then validated through Saffron, a live system that we monitor.

That's quality in a nutshell.

Now I understand that cost plays a significant role in education, and prospective clients want to know how we will help them monitor food inflation and be mindful of the rise in cost of living

So, when I'm out and about, visiting and educating pupils, and teachers about nutrition, I'm pleased to mention Foodbuy, our procurement arm that buys directly from the greatest local UK farmers, growers, and producers. Due to our unrivalled scale, we have the negotiating power to make excellent agreements, allowing our teams to provide the best value and quality for schools.

With so many staff "stretched too thin," how can you ensure that your nutritionist teams have the right toolkit and "guys on the ground" to serve new and existing partners while maintaining high standards and quality?

Firstly, I understand that change may be intimidating, which is why we make welcoming new partners to the Chartwells Independent family a priority.

We organise events like our 'One Amazing Day,' which is a hands-on activity where all catering staff are welcomed to the Chartwells Independent family from day one of the mobilisation

They'll understand who we are and what we do, as well as attend coaching sessions with both my team and the culinary department on menu, presentation, and quality standards. Its fantastic sessions give everyone the knowledge and confidence to return to their school to offer nothing but the finest. This is included as part of our mobilisation. and is a fantastic cost-saving initiative as everyone is briefed from the staff of the expectations and standards required.

We recently executed this incredibly successfully at Berkhamsted School, and, our partner was very impressed with the dietician delivery, which is always amazing to hear.

Finally, I have a strong team of 20 nutritionists and medical diet professionals, the largest team of its kind in the industry; something we are proud of. Experts on the ground aren't an issue for us since we have the numbers to assist each of our partners.

How does Chartwells Independents ensure pupils are able to make healthy informed choices when it comes to choosing lunch options?

We provide our pupils with consistently healthy, high-quality meals, allowing them to focus and perform at their peak.

My team provide a guided approach to menu choices, ensuring subtle guidance towards a healthy, nutritious, and balanced diet that will fuel pupils for their busy day at school.

In September I ran a concentrated Healthy Eating programme for 45 younger pupils, using the information presented in the class, everyone got involved creating their own snacks. This exercise allowed us to reinforce our healthy eating messaging in a fun and practical way, whilst making some tasty treats: their own hungry caterpillars from fresh fruits and veggies. Seeing them creating their treats with equal amounts of concentration and delight on their faces, makes my job amazing. The pupils loved it!

Beyond The Chartwells Kitchen (BTCK) is a great concept, and we understand that your teams are primarily famous for going above and beyond what is required of a school meal provider and partner expectations. Talk us through how these sessions are run and how ensure you keep it at the forefront of pupils' minds throughout the school day?

We’re delighted to offer our partners the award-winning, education programme “Beyond the Chartwells Kitchen.” The programme is designed for each age group, covering all areas of food, nutrition, wellbeing, and sustainability. These sessions allow my teams and the pupils to explore new tastes, tell us what they think about their healthy dishes, which ultimately feeds into our menu development.

Every month, my team delivers our BTCK programme to over 35,000 pupils and teachers. Topics include nutrition, well-being, and sustainability. While also supporting pupil’s curriculum, enriching learning experiences, health, and so much more! It's a fantastic initiative, and we're thrilled to be able to deliver it monthly.

Pupils of all ages need to understand how food fuels their brains to learn, exercise and sleep. What initiatives can you share to demonstrate age-appropriate messages?

Pupils of different ages have different nutritional needs.

The teenage years, for example, are important for bone mass development, yet most teenagers do not consume enough dairy. Younger pupils require carbohydrates for energy, and carbohydrates are required for energy to play.

Your pupils’ nutritional needs at prep school differ from those at upper school, and my teams help each of our partners recognise the nutritional variances through a superb food offering.

Chartwells Independents collaborate with over 70+ suppliers, allowing us to have more purchasing power and flexibility, allowing my nutrition team to build unique, age-appropriate meals for every student, of every age.

Our diverse menus cater for all cultural backgrounds and flavour is not compromised.

As a visionary team, we are always looking forward to shaping the exceptional food offering through the eyes of every student!

For more information on how Chartwells Independent works with our partners to improve food quality in our educational facilities, please contact Cristel Worth at cristel.worth@compass-group.co.uk or phone 07385949351.