BBC Food and Farming AwardsIn 2006 we were finalists in the BBC sponsored British Food and Farming Awards [and you don’t get there by being able to boil an egg!]. We were in the category of Best Dinner Lady/Man and Jamie Oliver was the overall judge for our category.

There were two joint winners – both schools – but it did give us the chance to elicit the views of some top chefs. Ainsley Harriott, Jamie Oliver, Marcus Wareing, Gordon Ramsay and James Martin all understood and appreciated quite why quality of food is paramount.

The people we meet on our Soup Runs often don’t eat as regularly as others; and often the food they do eat is simply to survive. When we source and prepare our meals we are most keen to ensure that the food we buy is of the best possible quality – remember, we’re not talking about quail’s eggs, lobster thermidor or fillet steak – and we know this is appreciated by those who eat it each week.

It is important to us they know their food is not ‘crumbs from a rich man’s table’ and because of this we believe their own self esteem is enhanced.

But there is another facet to this: our clients sit on chairs at tables. On every table is salt, pepper and HP sauce [if we thought there was a better sauce, we’d get it] and, although it would be easy to pocket the condiments, this doesn’t happen. And, because we feel queuing for food would be demeaning, we serve our clients, going from table to table. [Please don’t think we’re an a la carte restaurant – we’re most definitely not.]

Finally, it came as a surprise [although, on reflection, it shouldn’t have] to find that our excellent and nutritious stew was being given by our clients to their dogs – they clearly wanted to ensure that their ‘best friends’ were fed. So we bought some tins of dog food and the dogs are now fed before the clients, which seems to make everyone happy.