Pioneering children’s food campaigner Jeanette Orrey retires

14 December 2021
Today, Jeanette Orrey MBE, the pioneering children’s food campaigner who co-founded Food for Life and inspired Jamie Oliver’s school food revolution, has announced she is retiring.

Jeanette has also co-chaired the School Food Plan Alliance with Stephanie Slater, our Chief Executive since it was established in 2016, and was one of the star panellists at the launch of SFM’s defining Richmond campaign back in 2008.

Jeanette has made an incredible contribution to improving school food standards across Britain over her illustrious career in the field, which started with working as a school cook in Nottinghamshire. 

Jeanette’s is a similar story to that of School Food Matters, in that she began with modest ambitions of improving the food served to children in just one school, before deciding it was time to do more of the same across the entire country. 

Working as cook supervisor at St Peter’s Primary in 2000, Jeanette led much needed changes to school meals, swapping frozen food and packets with fresh produce and cooking from scratch. The school adopted a new procurement model, which focused on sourcing locally, organic where possible, and keeping processed food to a minimum. 

The result was that the number of children eating school food shot up from 50-60% to 85-90% each day. And the school became the first to win the Soil Association's 'Local Food Initiative of the Year Award'. 

But Jeanette didn’t stop there. She worked with the Soil Association to create the Food for Life programme, which encourages and supports more schools to serve better food. She teamed up with Jamie Oliver to raise awareness of the poor state of school dinners, prompting a national debate and policy changes. Jeanette won numerous awards for all her work, most notably an MBE in 2012 for her services to food in schools. 

Jeanette has since become a member of the School Food Review working group, adding her wealth of experience to the growing call on government to undertake a comprehensive review of all school food. 

We’re extremely thankful to Jeanette for everything she has done to improve school food and wish her the best for the future.