Preview: the LACA Main Event

LACA’s Main Event will focus on creating a healthy and sustainable future for school food, recognising the important part school caterers play in delivering this to their students each day.

Written by Michael Hales, LACA national chair

The LACA Main Event will take place at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole from 10-12 July 2019. For those who are unaware, it is the only national event dedicated to catering in education. The Theme for 2019 is about creating a healthy and sustainable future and will look to recognise the important part school caterers play in delivering this to their students each day.
It is also set to recognise the work that LACA has done in driving this message forward during its 30 years of operation.
Every year, the Main Event attracts more than 300 delegates with an exceptional line up of speakers and presenters. 2019 is no different, and as National Chair I am delighted to confirm that our speakers include Dr Hazel Wallace, Founder of the Food Medic, Prue Leith CBE of the Great British Bake Off and Liz Bonnin, host of BBC TV’s landmark documentary Drowning in Plastic.
Running alongside the Main Event is the Education Catering Exhbition which attracts more than 1,340 attendees from across the school meal sector over two days. The exhibition is the ideal place for anyone in the industry to find solutions to a wide range of requirements. These include food and beverage products which all help education caterers meet the nutrient guidelines in place, cashless payment and nutrition software solutions as well as furniture and dining room marketing. The exhibition is once again open to all school caterers, managers and contract caterers free of charge and I would encourage everyone to attend.

Delegate workshops

Wednesday’s proceedings will commence with four important delegate workshops on tendering and procurement, veganism and plant-based diets, allergens, and apprenticeships. After the Annual General Meeting, the conference session will open in the Kings Suite and LACA are delighted to be joined once again by Dr David Bull in his role as Conference Chair. David is an English doctor, author, television presenter and commentator who has appeared on a number of British and US television programmes including the BBC’s Watchdog, Newsround, The Wright Stuff, Tomorrow’s World, and Sky’s The Breathing Life Awards.
In the afternoon, Dr Hazel Wallace, Founder of the Food Medic, will deliver a session reflecting the conference theme of a heathy and sustainable future. Hazel is a qualified medical doctor, best-selling author, content creator, and health influencer. She believes that doctors should have food and nutrition training as part of their medical degree but that the scale of the problem extends beyond the walls of a hospital, and it is now time for all of us to take our share of the responsibility for global health. For Hazel what we do today, and everyday moving forward, will determine our future health and it should make for a very informative session for our delegates.
On Thursday morning, we are delighted to be joined by Prue Leith CBE DL, whom many of you will know from her role as one of the judges on Great British Bake Off. Never one to shy away from demanding change, Prue has been an advocate for better food and nutrition in the public sector for many years and was the first Chair of the School Food Trust at its inception in 2007. Prue continues to be vocal on education catering including the need for a return to teaching cookery in schools and will deliver a thought-provoking session to start Thursday’s programme. After a strategy update session, Andy Holcroft, from Bug Grub Chef, will discuss the science and environmental benefits of insect protein and how insect-based food and ingredients can be used to create exciting and tasty food. Andy will also hold one of the LACA Live demonstration sessions so delegates will be able to sample some dishes!

Considering plastic

In the afternoon, Liz Bonnin, host of BBC TVs landmark documentary Drowning in Plastic, will deliver a session entitled “the War on Plastic Waste”. This is a very important issue for many of our delegates and Liz saw first-hand the global problem of plastic waste and the contribution it makes to pollution and the health of the oceans in her documentary. In her session Liz will ask the question “What can the school food sector do to reduce packaging and improve recycling to assist the global challenge of reducing plastic waste?” Liz will go on to host a panel session with industry experts looking to tackle the issue of plastic waste where delegates will be able to have their say on any measures currently in place or how to implement change in schools to play their part.

To complete the afternoon session Katharine Tate, also known as The Food Teacher will address the conference. Katherine combines a background in education and nutrition and has developed an international reputation as an expert on the impact of nutritious food for all individuals, especially growing children and families. We are lucky to have her at the Main Event.

Recognising excellence

One of the greatest benefits of being at the Main Event is the unrivalled networking opportunities it offers. The LACA Awards for Excellence, one of the highlights of the week for me, take place on the Thursday evening. The annual awards are the opportunity for LACA to formally acknowledge and celebrate the individuals and teams of people who continue to make a real difference in education catering. Good management, strong performances and high achievements deserve to be recognised at any time and the awards are a fitting tribute.

We will also be raising money on the night for the Stroke Association and Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group.
Over my year as National Chair, I have taken on the challenge of walking 30km in each of the LACA regions. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone once again for their fantastic support.

LACA’s year in focus

Friday’s session will commence with the Chair’s Year in Focus. I have been enormously proud to have been National Chair during LACA’s 30th Anniversary Year. Throughout the year I have been representing our members tackling our key priority issues such as childhood obesity, the proliferation of fast food restaurants around schools and by continuing to campaign for Universal Infant Free School Meals to be extended to all school years.
Following this address, there will be a further update on key LACA and industry initiatives facing school caterers including holiday hunger, the healthy food ratings scheme and potential changes to the School Food Standards.

In addition, I would also encourage all attendees to visit the Finishing Touches culinary salon. Co-run by LACA and the Craft Guild of Chefs, the Finishing Touches salon will showcase the artistic skills and talent that our colleagues display on a daily basis across the sector. Now in its 12th year, the competition is aimed at all levels of staff employed across education catering, who are capable of creating craft pieces. There are some fantastic cakes on display every year and I am particularly looking forward to one of the new categories for 2019, sweet macaroons, as these are a favourite in the Hales household.

If you are attending this year, I look forward to welcoming you to the Main Event. Please do come up and introduce yourself. I’m looking forward to what should be another fantastic few days in Birmingham.

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