Case Study: George Abbot School

Get an inside look at the work done by one of our School Food Champions schools, and the changes they've made since starting the programme!

A school dining room, where a counter displays a range of healthy options, such as bread, a large container of soup and fruit. On top there is a banner that states the name as 'Raynham Restaurant' in large navy letters on a turquoise background with red piping at the bottom

George Abbot School joined our School Food Champions programme to give its pupils the opportunity to access nutritious, wholesome, affordable food – and to make drinking water more readily available.

A large school in Guildford, Surrey, George Abbot has nearly 2000 students. 15 of them, from years 7-9, became School Food Champions – led by Natalie Hancock, a Food and Nutrition teacher.

One priority for this SFC team was to diversify the canteen food – partly to cater to dietary and religious needs, but also to encourage more people to try new foods, and make their meals more exciting.

The students also noticed that the healthier options tended to be more expensive than the non-healthy options – or at least were perceived to be. So this 15-strong team set out to make a difference.

A teacher with a short blonde bob is talking to students, who are dressed in black blazers and striped ties. They are standing around a table and discussing with the teacher in a bright classroom with white walls.

Lead teacher Natalie set out to help her students drive those changes. Excited to bring together such a passionate group of like-minded young people to enhance the school environment, she provided a safe space for them to discuss vital topics like food insecurity and injustice.

After learning about the food system and health inequality, the SFC team discussed what they could change about their own school food – and entered our pledge competition. They chose three things that they aspired for their school food to be: healthy, sustainable, and affordable.

The group visited tutor time sessions to explain their vision to their fellow pupils, sharpening their communication skills and boosting their confidence in the process. Passionate about garnering support for their pledge, they collected a whopping 319 signatures from pupils and teachers.

Following an audit of the school, the SFC team found only five water fountains on the grounds. Realising this wasn’t enough to keep everyone hydrated throughout the day, they found possible locations for four new water fountains.

A wall display in a school, showing various pieces of work by students, about changes that can be made to live in a more sustainable way, centred around the use of reusable water bottles, all displayed on A4 sheets of paper in two rows of three.
Some of the work created by George Abbot students

I joined Bite Back because I want[ed] to make a difference to me, my year group and to the school.

School Food Champion

George Abbot School

To get things moving, the SFC team met with the School Business Manager to discuss their ideas. They made a convincing case, and George Abbot plans to install more fountains as a result.

The school is also encouraging pupils to bring their own reusable water bottles, rewarding them with house points for doing so. Their caterers, Innovate, are installing machines to dispense flavoured water – in exchange for a token, students can fill up their reusable bottles. As a result, fewer sugary drinks are sold in the canteen.

The School Food Champions also met with their canteen management staff, Andy and Kasia, to discuss what they’d like to change about their school food – and what was possible. Working closely with the canteen staff, lead teacher Natalie and the SFC team developed a healthier flapjack – packed with dried fruit and seeds, and baked with less butter and sugar than a traditional recipe. Kasia and Andy tested it in the canteen, and after a great reception the new flapjack is officially on the menu.

two chefs, a short woman with black hair and a yellow tshirt and a man with a short beard and short hair. Both are stood behind a school canteen counter which has various foods on it, from different types of bread to a large soup container and snacks.
The chefs at George Abbot School

Alongside her weekly SFC sessions, Natalie ran a competition for groups of Year 8 pupils to design a healthy and sustainable grab-and-go snack. Since Covid, grab-and-go options have grown in popularity as many schools have had to send pupils outside to eat their lunch.

After researching healthy handheld snacks, the students came up with their own ideas that were also zero-waste. Canteen staff trialled their products, and the winner – a healthy stuffed sweet potato skin – featured as the star product on the menu for that month.

opened school books detailing student's work on school food laid out on a table

George Abbot’s School Food Champions achieved a phenomenal amount this year. As if installing more water fountains and adding healthier options to the school’s menu isn’t enough, they improved the dining environment with colourful food-fact stickers, improved the access to the lunch section of the school’s website, and introduced a cultural food calendar to celebrate diversity at the school and encourage students to explore new tastes.

As a teacher, I joined Bite Back to allow a group of young children to come together and make positive changes in our school environment. Changes that I hope will continue for years to come. I truly believe that when like-minded people come together, great things can happen!


Teacher and School Food Champion Lead at George Abbot School