Wednesday, 7 March 2012

60 SECONDS INTERVIEW: Caroline Morgan

FOR the last six years, Local Food Links have been providing delicious hot meals to schools and community groups throughout West Dorset.

Caroline Morgan is CEO of this ever expanding organisation and as a self-proclaimed “foodie” and gastronomist she tells us why hot meals are becoming popular once again in Dorset Schools and how parents can help their child have a more balanced diet… and have them asking for more.

Caroline lives in Dorchester with her husband and three children.

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WHAT does Local Food Links do?
We are a not for profit organisation and we make predominantly school meals. We work with 23 primary schools and are hoping to expand this September. We also work with older people. We do “Meals on Wheels” and we also cater for some lunch clubs, day centres, and also the Social Education Centre in Bridport.

HOW many meals do you produce a day?
Around 1,200! These are prepared and distributed from our two hub kitchens, one of which is in Bridport the other is in Blandford. School meals disappeared for Dorset about 25-years-ago and most school kitchens were ripped out. When they decided to bring hot meals back, the easiest way was to cook them in hub kitchens and deliver them hot, so all the schools needed was a serving table and washing up facilities. Some schools did have a kitchen put back and they receive what we call a “Cook-Chill meal” which can be re-heated on site.

WHAT would you say to parents who are thinking of ordering hot dinners for their child?
Come to one of our “taster” sessions and try one for yourself. If a child has a packed lunch every day, they are probably going to be eating a lot of bread, processed meats and salty or sugary snacks. If they have a hot meal, even occasionally, then they are having a much more varied diet. For example, our tomato base sauce which goes into all our pizzas, pasta dishes and casseroles has so many vegetables hidden in it, it’s completely whizzed so the children wouldn’t even know, but it’s got squash, peppers, courgettes and garlic, all the good stuff. 

SO, what might be on the menu that everyone will enjoy?
Roast dinners are a good example of a popular traditional meal. Then for something a bit more exotic you might like sweet and sour pork with couscous, or chicken curry with rice and onion bhaji – actually it was the onion bhaji that made this one so popular, kids really love the novelty extras.

DO you do chips?
We don’t do chips, but we do potato wedges, they are baked not fried.

HAS Jamie Oliver been a big help to your campaign?
Definitely, his recipes are so easy to follow, and he has such good ideas – he got a lot of slating for his work on school meals, but I think he’s done a tremendous job. Jamie Oliver came along at about the same time we were starting up Local Food Links so he really helped boost our cause.

ARE the “Meals on Wheels” menus the same as in schools?
No, when we started we soon discovered that whilst children love pasta, the older generation generally don’t. They would prefer more potatoes and hot puddings and traditional meals, more like what they grew up with. It took us a while to get the balance right.

WHAT are your personal memories of school meals?
I had a lot of school meals. In my day they still had spam fritters, which were the absolute worst thing for me. There were lots of things we loved though; the crumbles and steamed puddings. When the meals were good  it was a real lift, you always felt happy. Food really influences so much of our lives, our moods our health.

WHICH three famous people would you like to invite for a Local Food Links lunch?
Jamie Oliver, of course. Then I’d invite Audrey Hepburn because I think she was very beautiful and she did lots of good work for charity. I’d also invite Roald Dahl. He wrote some great stories about food for children, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” for instance.

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