Black Swan steps in to provide school dinners

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Pub is The Hub stalwart, The Black Swan in Ravenstonedale in Cumbria has expanded its service for the local community once again; this time with school dinners.

Daily lunchtime meals at the Ravenstonedale Primary School are now provided freshly made and delivered by The Black Swan using locally sourced ingredients. On some days the children will even go to the pub to eat their lunches and in the summer they hope to have barbecues and eat outside.

Having set up a village shop scheme with Pub is The Hub in 2007, pub owner, Louise Dinnes was approached six months ago by a new head teacher at the school. She was concerned about the quality of the children’s meals. Louise explained: “The standard of the food was poor and it was costing over £2,500 just to deliver them to Ravenstonedale. On top of that they were served in plastic ‘prison’ trays with dinner on one side and pudding on the other.”

After careful planning with menus and consultation with parents the school meals were developed with the pub’s head chef, Kevin Hillyer – a father of two whose five year old is also at the school.

Both the pub and school were keen to introduce an educational element to the menus and have come up with ‘Try it Friday’ where the children try new fruit and vegetables. The first week they introduced asparagus with great success. Kevin said: “We have done four different menus and if they don’t like what’s on the menu they can have something else.”

The cost of each meal is £2.25 a head and as Louise said: “It just about covers our costs.” But she added: “It’s never been about making money on schemes like this; it’s always been about supporting our local community. At the end of the day, they come back and support us.”

Louise and her husband Alan found that once the shop opened diversification was the way forward for their rural business. They opened it with essential grocery items and local produce but then quickly expanded naturally to include organic soaps and toiletries made by a local farmer’s wife; then cakes, jams and preserves from local suppliers; followed by cards, books and calendars painted and produced by local artists. They have since become the base for the area’s first responders.

The Black Swan was the AA Pub of the Year for 2012/13.