A former marine biologist has used his passion for the environment to help lead the way in creating greener school meals.
Declan O’Toole never left his love for the planet behind when he gave up marine biology to run his own Bournemouth-based catering company 15 years ago.
Instead he invested that passion into creating a company that serves around 380,000 environmentally friendly school meals across Dorset each year.
Unlike some other suppliers, which supply their food in heading-for-landfill-foil-trays, Forerunner’s meal containers are returned to them, washed and reused every day.
This significantly reduces the environmental impact of a school’s meals service and with free meals for all three years of Key Stage One, this quickly adds up.
Forerunner also uses local suppliers wherever possible and sends all food waste for composting.
Now Declan hopes smaller companies can respond to the Climate Emergency that’s been recently declared by Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch Council (BCP).
He said: “I’ve been very fortunate in my time to have worked all around the world as a marine biologist and seen first-hand not only how beautiful our planet is but also how fragile it is.
“We can all make a difference to the climate crisis as small business owners and individuals – but we all have to make those changes to have an impact – and it doesn’t matter how small; it’s the cumulative effect that matters.
“For me it was a no brainer when setting up Forerunner to devise a way of delivering school meals in the most environmentally friendly way possible.
“Our food is delivered in metal dishes that will last a lifetime, any waste is composted, we use local suppliers and only serve local schools.
“The menus themselves always contain a vegetarian and jacket potato option and the ingredients are freshly cooked and prepared on our premises.”
Forerunner provides school meals to 14 primary schools and nurseries across Dorset, serving up dishes to around 2,000 pupils every day.
The company devises its termly menus with input from the schools and also deliver taster sessions at its schools’ parents’ evenings.
Its three chefs and three catering assistants prepare dishes from locally sourced ingredients from Forerunner’s kitchen in Southbourne.
Declan added: “If we’re going to contribute to minimising our impact on the climate, then companies, people and families, may have to spend a bit more money and invest in greener practices.
“Our schools appreciate that they know they are getting high quality, healthy school meals that are also delivered to them in an environmentally friendly way.”
Declan originally hails from Australia and says the devastating bush fires in his home country should be a wake-up call for the whole world.
“When I grew up in Australia we usually had one week of 40 plus degree temperatures in the height of our summer in February – those type of temperatures in December were unheard of.
“We need to think carefully about how our actions impact on the planet. Can we do whatever we’re doing in a more climate friendly way, but still do it well.”
Note to editors: For more information please contact Rachel Read, account director at Deep South Media, on 01202 534487.