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25th August 2021

Food, Glorious Food

This month, we explore the delicious food that is served in Oakham School’s canteen. We take a look at two articles, written in 1978 and 2000, and see how feeding the school has changed over the years.


In the 1960s, each of the houses had separate cooking facilities. There was virtually no choice and the quality was “relatively poor”. However, with the number of pupils coming to Oakham growing thanks to co-education being introduced in 1971, a new solution was needed to feed the hungry staff and pupils.

So catering facilities were housed in the Ashburton. There was a three weekly rota of over 50 different dishes which, the Oakhamian magazine article hastily reminds us, are not always chips! The caterers used fresh meat and vegetable everyday, recognising the nutritional advantages that they had in comparison to frozen or ready meals. The school could get through 100 weight of meat in one day, 1 and 1.5 hundred weight of chips, and ½ ton of potatoes a week.

As now, breakfast, lunch and dinner were offered to pupils and consequently, the Ashburton was open from 5:30am to 9:15pm every day.

The idea of not wasting food and having a good eco-footprint does not to appear to be a new phenomenon. In 1978, the article addresses food waste and how the school deals with it. Just enough meals are prepared in order to avoid waste and if by chance there was a shortage, a ration store was on hand to fill in the shortfall. Staff would also serve popular dishes like spaghetti bolognese and curry in order to help reduce waste.

Pupils at the time were described as “being so conscientious about queuing properly, clearing their plates up, and helping afterwards” and this is attributed to the successful running of the dining hall.

It was not just everyday meals that the school’s kitchen staff catered for. They also provided food for special events and parties.

Some notable long standing members of staff at this time were:

  • Maxine Hamilton – at the school on and off from 1939.
  • Elizabeth Anderson – at the school for 21 years (1957)
  • Doreen Bass – at the school 15 years (1963)
  • Daphne Underwood – at the school 9 years (1969)


So, nearly 22 years later, what had changed? There was a considerable increase in the number of students coming to the school. As such the school’s kitchens were serving a huge 800,000 meals a year!

In 1999, the school took catering into their own hands, parting ways with Garden Merchant. They did this because they found using a catering company was restrictive and that profits were shared out rather than going directly back into the school’s food fund.

Consequently, the school could have the luxury of setting up daily deliveries for fresh produce and could produce 3 hot meals for all students for £2 a head. Thus the profits could go back into the food fund to be used on developing new menus, buying produced, and improving the dining experience.

This era saw pupil feedback given as to what was served. Seventh formers and servers would be interviewed by catering managers to find out favourite and avoided dishes (helping to please students and minimise waste).

New elements added to the catering included a pasta bar, tower of bread, soup, fruit juice machine and brand new crockery.

This catering team of this era were awarded the Star Team and Best catering facility awards in the school.

So what do you remember of the food from your time at school. Have you made any school meals at home? We would love to hear from you at @OakhamArchives or archivesuser@oakham.rutland.sch.uk.















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