College catering: students, staff and the ethics of what we eat

Bradford College runs a number of catering and hospitality courses: they are practical and popular, with numbers rising rapidly both in further and higher education.

Our catering staff and students also run two restaurants and a café on the College campus, open to everyone. They provide catering for events of all sizes, mostly in the College. This gives the students some great hands-on experience, and helps generate some revenue for the catering courses.

IMG_1127Aidan James (pictured above) is the College’s Restaurant Manager and Trainer. He has a degree and MPhil in catering management, and worked in the food and beverage industry before joining the College seven years ago to teach catering and manage our restaurants and cafes. He talked to me about the ethical issues that the catering team faces.

“It’s an exciting time,” Aidan says. “When our new £50 million eco-friendly building opens in September 2014, the main restaurant and cafeteria will be in the central entrance area, really well placed to welcome people in, and with lovely views of the new green area outside.” At the same time, Aidan explains, the additional College cafes which are currently run by an external contractor will all become College-run, giving the students more opportunities for valuable work experience and hopefully generating income for the College.

Food supply
Aidan says that the catering team have to balance a number of factors when sourcing food. “We want to stay local, so we lessen the fuel miles and help support local employment and business. We need value for money, so we can keep costs down for the College and our customers. And we want quality.

“So we tend to get our fresh fruit and veg from the wholesale market in St James’s, off Wakefield Road. Our meat comes in part from a local supplier, and from Sykes House Farm which provides high quality and is supportive to our students, who can visit their butchery department and slaughter house.”

Dry goods, wines and spirits mostly come from a large national company with a local depot, because of the good prices. “However, we are always reviewing this,” Aidan adds. “And we are about to switch to Fair Trade tea and coffee, and that will come from a Bradford company.”

Aidan explains that there are real risks in the food trade. “They include poor quality, passing off and adulterated food. So we want the students to be aware of the positive choices that can be made, and of the risks you need to be alert to. High standards are key. Once we are running all the College food and refreshment outlets we will have more buying clout, which will help us get quality produce at a reasonable price.

Grow your own
“The other area we hope to expand is getting the students and staff involved in growing food. We already have a small allotment, but with the new building there will be new opportunities. And we are next door to the University of Bradford which is doing a great job in this respect, so we hope to strengthen our links.”

Healthy eating and dietary requirements
“Eating healthy food is important – and new information and requirements are always emerging,” Aidan says. “This summer we’ve consulted with our customers who have special dieteray requirements to find out how we can better meet their needs.” The team are introducing a more flexible menu as a result. They are also looking at possibly having two main teaching kitchens in the new building, one halal and one non-halal.

“It’s a hard juggling act getting the menu right! In addition to ensuring meals are healthy and meet particular needs, we want to cover the curriculum, provide affordable food, be ethical, and minimise waste.”

Experience and enrichment
Aidan finishes by saying that another important goal is to give the students experience that widen their horizons. “We find opportunities for our students to meet the suppliers – most recently we went to visit a rhubarb farm in Tong, he says. “Also, the College is one of the main sponsors of the annual World Curry Festival, and our students volunteer to help run this each year as well as take part as contestants.” There has been a ‘food not waste‘ campaign, and now a team of staff and students provides an annual staff barbecue.

Aidan (at the back on the right) with catering students and staff.

Aidan (at the back on the right) with catering students and staff.

Finally, the team recently addressed the growing work load by taking on two catering apprentices, building in a range of work experience and training. They are ready for expansion!

Ian Brown: green solutions to waste and recycling at Bradford College and beyond

Ian Brown, left, with one of the Building Services and Green Solutions team.

Ian Brown, left, with one of the Building Services and Green Solutions team.

Ian Brown is Bradford College’s Building Services Manager. He has travelled from being a temporary porter to his current post: head of building services, responsible for 137 building supervisors, porters and cleaning staff across 14 College buildings.

And along the way he has transformed the College into a centre of recycling, restoring and re-use, improving our cleaning and porterage and setting up the College-based business Green Solutions to provide low cost services to organisations and individuals across 2013 finalist 300 dpiBradford. We are delighted and proud that Ian has been named as a finalist in this year’s prestigious Green Gown Awards.

The hub of all the activity is Garden Mills, a former textile mill conveniently situated at the lower end of the College campus, and close to the City Centre. A few years ago it was filled with rubble but, true to form, Ian and his team cleared it and transformed it into a viable facility, a base for Green Solutions and the College’s cleaning, porterage, storage, recycling and safe disposal services.

“I’m a working class kid done good,” Ian says. “I’ve been on the shop floor, and I never shy away from hard work. All my staff can see that, and we have a fantastic team spirit.”

Ian (on the far right) with members of the Building Services and Green Solutions team.

Ian (on the far right) with members of the Building Services and Green Solutions team.

Ian grew up in Outwood, Wakefield. He left school at the age of 16 with no qualifications:

“I was a tearaway – the dole office was next door and I just jumped over the fence and signed on as unemployed.” A series of short term jobs followed, including portering in hospitals and labouring on building sites. “The best thing was I always played lots of rugby at a decent level,” Ian explains. “But I didn’t settle so I went travelling overseas. I came back for just two months, got a portering job here at Bradford College – and it stuck!”

The manager who hired Ian to work at Bradford College clearly saw some potential: he was gradually given more responsibility, taking charge of big clear-outs and running the Junction Mills building. He started studying, and he wrote a book about Castleford rugby player Alan Hardisty. “I got lots of compliments for the book,” Ian says. “I can see now it was a time I was discovering and developing skills.”

Ian was made Head Porter, and gained a Diploma in Management Studies in the following year. The course was pivotal: he used it as an opportunity to re-assess the College cleaning and porterage service. “I found that the porters were handling a lot of the waste, which took time,” Ian says, “and then the College was paying for it to be taken away. I researched where the waste was going and what it cost us, and I realised we could reduce the College’s carbon footprint and help the College make a profit at the same time.”

His recommendations helped him become Building Services Manager. “And the environmental work all came from that,” Ian says. He is now continually exploring new ways to help improve the College’s environmental impact.

“I hate waste – waste of money, materials, resources, even operational processes. I like to stop and look at why we do things, and how we do them – are they quick and efficient? Do they avoid waste? It’s not about people losing jobs – if anything, you can have staff who have something in them but are stifled by a procedure. I like to give all the team training and opportunities, and as a result some of them go on to bigger things.”

Another important principal for Ian is reasonable pricing: Green Solutions offers a number of services free, and others at very competitive prices. “We want to cover our costs, and to generate surplus that can help us improve the College environment,” he says. “But it’s also important we get more people recycling and discovering the benefits of fixing and adapting what’s already here.”

Garden Mills: a hub for recycling, re-using, storage and environmental initiatives and courses.

Garden Mills: a hub for recycling, re-using, storage and environmental initiatives and courses.

Garden Mills is well worth a visit – Ian gives guided tours, and gives students work experience. The Bradford Bike Hub is in the building, a centre for bike purchases, repairs, meet-ups and more. Upstairs is the Sector Skills Academy for Environmental Technologies. Nearby is the allotment at Garden Mills, redeveloped through Ian supporting the College’s award-winning Students’ Union in its bid to the Student Eats and its Time to Grow project. Food grown on the allotment has been used in the College kitchens, and taken home by the student volunteers. Plans are afoot to develop the area further.

Ian has become a man with a strong vision for the College. He sums up his team’s approach: “We chase what some people think are lost causes, and we recycle and restore what’s useful.”

Interview and text by Ruth Wilson. Photos by Paula Solloway and Ruth Wilson.

The Green Solutions stats: August 2013

Customers
Retailers 32
Manufacturers 11
Restaurants 4
Large organisations and education institutions 10

Monthly recycling averages to end of July 2013
Card: 14762.5 kg per month
Paper: 13645.83 kg per month
Metal: 1517.583 kg per month
Plastic: 256.4167 kg per month
Average monthly income: £3,015.19 Per month

Furniture restore and reuse store (to April 2013)
Number of items of furniture reused: 8,774
Items sold at low cost to local businesses, community members, staff and students: 762
Landfill saving: 94,737 kg
Cost saving: £291,414

Sparking imaginations and saving energy: teaching environmental technologies at Bradford College

“The UK is a country that could face power shortages. We use more and more energy, and we don’t produce enough. Power is essential to our everyday way of life. That’s why the College has courses and initiatives to help people learn about alternative and sustainable technologies at work and at home.”

Barry Noble (centre) with apprentices and solar panels.

Barry Noble (centre) with apprentices and solar panels.

Barry Noble is one of the College’s passionate advocates for sustainable working and living. He grew up in Calderdale, leaving school to become an apprentice – working as a plumber and heating engineer installing boilers in textile mills and people’s homes. He gradually moved into teaching, starting at Bradford College in 1999, with a period at Burnley.

“I’ve always been involved in teaching and apprenticeships,” Barry says. “You start as an apprentice, you become a tradesman and you take on an apprentice – it’s a very sustainable model that’s been going for hundreds of years.” 

Most of the courses Barry teaches on provide training for apprentices and trades people and employees in construction and engineering, to help them upgrade their skills and get industry-recognised qualifications. “We were one of the very first National Skills Academies set up to promote renewable energy,” he explains. “We provide training in low carbon or zero carbon technologies where you use little or no manufactured power, and lowering the consumers energy bills, and working with the environment in mind.”

Fuel poverty is a key issue that Barry confronts. “If you spend more than ten per cent of your income after tax on energy, you are in fuel poverty,” he explains. “New technologies help to address this, providing fuel that is more affordable to ordinary people.”

fuel

Fuel poverty in the Leeds City Region. Bradford West, where the College is based, has a high ranking. (Data from Leeds City Region).

Bradford is built on wells and watercourses, used to power the textiles mills that grew up in the 19th century. “We need to return to using these natural resources to gain our power,” Barry says. “And we need more on a local level and scale.”

He gives the example of a mini hydro in Hebden Bridge, where an Archimedes screw set in the river is powering a café and retail outlet. Barry also speaks highly of heat pumps, a potentially greener way of heating homes. “As gas prices go up and the price of heat pumps gradually comes down, these will take off. People can come to us to learn about the  technology,  installation and maintenance requirements, and to make informed choices about what’s on offer.”

“We want to spark people’s imaginations as well as give them strong and solid skills,” Barry says. “For instance, plumbing is everywhere, from tiny pipes the size of a ballpoint pen in pharmaceuticals, to huge power stations steam pipework systems . Plumbing  has transformed  our quality of life.”

Barry explains how damp in a house – caused by poor plumbing and ventilation – can breed bacteria and lead to disease. He emphasises the importance of technologies serving to improve working conditions: one of his heroes is John Fielden, the 19th century mill-owner, innovator, MP and campaigner who fought for the introduction of the Ten Hour Act and other measures to improve the lives of mill workers and others.

The government’s efforts to improve energy sustainability face challenges. ”Leeds City Region is full of hard to treat old properties. Planners are opposed to external cladding, so all the upgrading has to be done inside, and that can be costly and be a large construction project. This has reduced the the demand for alternative technologies. But it is all waiting to happen.”

Bradford College 17th May 2013

Barry is involved in a number of outreach activities for the College. He is advising the Council on the use of photovoltaic panels, and Kirkgate Centre on energy usage in their community building. He has linked up with other local projects to help them promote or make use of alternative energy sources. The College also runs a two day environmental awareness course for anyone interested in sustainable technologies.

“We need to look at what can be done locally to improve the quality of life,” Barry says. “We can all switch off lights, we can all make less use of cars. My vision is that every learner at Bradford College should become aware of environmental issues that impact on the planet.  We should encourage our learners  to learn how to work better with natural environmental resources.”

interview and text: Ruth Wilson. Photos: Paula Solloway.