Biting Back – Fighting for change


At Chartwells, our primary focus is providing every child with a nutritious and delicious meal. But that role doesn’t stop at the school gates. Through the provision of nutritious food, engaging educational material, and support for social value initiatives we believe in providing levelling up opportunities for students and communities across the country.

This focus saw us engage with Bite Back’s Food System Accelerator, joining nine other leading businesses across the food industry, to partner with Bite Back’s Youth Ambassadors. The activity sees us work collaboratively to identify, develop, and deliver innovations that put child health first and set a new standard for how businesses can lead this agenda.

Bite-Back is a youth-led movement, founded by Jamie Oliver, that wants to eliminate the threat of diet related disease from every child’s future, no matter where they live. As part of the Food System Accelerator Cohort, we joined a two-day workshop with the Youth Ambassadors and food businesses, including Tesco’s and Innocent Smoothies, to contribute to a discussion around how we can collectively drive healthier outcomes for pupils.

Giving a voice to younger generations is not new to us – getting direct feedback from the children and pupils we serve is a core part of our offer. That’s why no dish goes on to our menu until it has been given the thumbs up from the pupils and students who eat it (as well as our award-winning nutrition and culinary teams!)

Engaging with Bite Back’s Youth Ambassadors is yet a further extension of this focus, not only looking at the food that we proudly serve on the plate, but also all areas and elements of our business, so that we can share our key learnings and help drive better outcomes for communities.

Meg Hughes, Director of Nutrition, at Chartwells said: “I was truly astounded by the passion and determination of the youth ambassadors; one conversation that sticks in my mind was with Youth Ambassadors Emmanuel and Destiny. In a very balanced discussion, we talked about their biggest frustrations when it comes to school food, but they were also very open to hearing about the challenges we face in the foodservice industry. This mutual understanding is a big part of the puzzle and their willingness to listen and understand was encouraging. Our joint commitment is two-fold: firstly, to launch a youth board to truly shine a light on the pupil voice and drive change to school food quickly on a national level and, secondly to lobby the Government to review the funding structure of school meals which is crucial to success in this industry."

Following the trial period, we will be working closely with the Youth Ambassadors over the coming months, before presenting our findings back to an audience of Government officials and key stakeholders in November, standing side-by-side with Bite Back’s Youth Ambassadors.

Despite the myriad challenges facing the country and our industry, through collaboration and engagement like this initiative, we can share our expertise, best practice, and insight to ensure a better and healthier future for the generation of tomorrow.