A BUSINESS that provides almost 50 county schools with lunches has gone above and beyond after being awarded a five-star food hygiene rating.

The School Lunch Company works with 48 schools in Oxfordshire and its operation at The Hendreds Primary School in Wantage has recently been awarded the top rating.

Company owner Les Redhead said it was vital children learned about food as well. He has organised cooking demonstrations and talks in schools.

He said: “It’s so important for children to have a good lunch.

“It has been proven now that children will learn a lot more in the afternoon if they have had a hot lunch and it’s important everyone gets one.”

The three-weekly rota this year sees the 180-odd pupils at two schools in the area enjoy a varied menu which includes teriyaki chicken, pasta dishes, roast dinners, chicken pies and much more.

The menu is created in conjunction with the children and teachers before being decided on by the School Lunch Company.

He said: “We want to offer what the schools themselves want and we work with them letting them come up with a menu before adapting it to meet guidelines.

“They love a roast dinner and we sometimes offer pizza. Friday is always fish and chips but we vary the other days.”

The company also has a Food For Life Schools award, which requires 75 per cent of its foods to be home produced, eggs to be free range and produce to be sourced locally.

It also gets all its meat from local butchers with Broadway Butcher in Didcot providing The Hendreds Primary School.

Mr Redhead formerly worked in school catering for Oxfordshire County Council before setting up his own business in 2012, which has since secured 48 contracts.

The Carterton man said the inspection system was good and the situation in Oxfordshire had improved greatly in his 20 years in school catering.

He said: “It has got a lot better. The systems works well for us and the key to it is working with environmental health officers.

“They are there to help you and if you don’t it’s a big mistake.”

He added: “I’m passionate about what young people eat and we need to educate them about food.

“We have had chefs go into schools to cook and give talks – it’s not just about making them good meals but teaching them about food so they know what to eat.”

The company’s team based at The Hendreds Primary School also cooks food for Grove Primary School, which is delivered by taxi.

Mr Redhead said this made their task even more difficult and was pleased with the top hygiene rating.

He said: “It’s a bit difficult as they prepare meals for two schools.

“We have regular audits and temperature checks and we have things in places to make sure we meet the requirements.”