The novelist and poet, GK Chesterton, was once asked by The Times to pen an essay on the theme, “What is wrong with the world?” Chesterton wrote back: “Dear Sirs, I am. Sincerely yours”.
The concept of personal responsibility featured heavily in the inaugural Ken Hom Lecture, delivered by Lord Chris Patten at Oxford Brookes University earlier this week. The annual lecture will form a central plank of Oxford Gastronomica, a vehicle for debating society’s dysfunctional relationship with food and drink, founded by the university’s Head of Hospitality, Donald Sloan. Lord Patten painted a grim picture of global water shortage, depleted grain crops, global warming and badly-allocated development assistance. But he concluded that “there are many things we can and should do, as individuals, to make a difference. What we eat and drink can have a considerable impact on what other people can eat and drink”.
Given this glimmer of hope, it is encouraging to read the Food Standards Agency (FSA)’s positive progress report on the joint commitment of the big five contract caterers to helping their customers make healthier workplace eating choices.
In January, Aramark, BaxterStorey, Compass Group, Elior and Sodexo, along with suppliers Brakes and 3663, signed a commitment to provide healthier meals in the workplace. All have progressed in such areas as developing new recipes for popular dishes to use ingredients lower in fat, salt and sugar; increasing training for chefs and kitchen staff on healthy cooking techniques; and offering customers more information on the nutritional content of food and promoting healthy eating messages.
As Lord Patten said, globalisation is about choice. By enabling their customers to eat more healthily and, by extension, more responsibly, our caterers are helping them to make informed meal choices that just might make the tiniest difference to the world.