Campaign: Meal Deal
Client: Greenwich Borough Council
PR team: In-house
Timescale: September 2004-January 2005
Budget band: £10,000-£100,000
In response to media reports last year that British schoolchildren were getting inexorably fatter (and the fact that one survey found a concrete link between poor diet and under-achievement), Greenwich Borough Council rolled out a campaign, Meal Deal, aimed at improving kids' health. Objectives
To ensure every child had a nutritious meal on their school dinner menu, teach kids about healthy food and increase spending on school meals.
Strategy and Plan
The council's task was sizeable given the campaign had to be achieved within its 'best value' regime. Any increase in costs could lead to the council losing catering contracts under the tender process - and with it any influence over food fed to children in its schools.
The council first targeted primary school children with its Lunch Bunch Club, fronted by fictional food characters who featured heavily on revamped school menus. Adam Apple and the Bean Babies urged children to eat plenty of fibre, protein and vitamins. In return for eating a balanced healthy meal in school, children were given rewards.
The secondary school aspect of the campaign was bolstered by the landmark agreement with TV chef Jamie Oliver. In return for permission to film the project for a television series, Jamie's School Dinners, Oliver joined the catering team at Kidbrooke School.
The scheme was launched with a fanfare of publicity, followed by events including an Oliver-hosted school assembly and the development of a regular newsletter for parents.
The head cook at Kidbrooke swapped places with Oliver at his restaurant, Fifteen, while Greenwich school catering staff were taught new culinary skills in a series of confidence-boosting sessions with Oliver.
As other schools in the borough joined the Meal Deal scheme, the then education secretary Charles Clarke met Oliver to discuss how the programme could be implemented nationally - a meeting that made newspaper headlines across the country.
Further publicity was gained via a dedicated healthy eating section on the council's website, while a second parents' newsletter was launched, informing residents of Meal Deal's successes to date.
With the Channel 4 series only weeks away from being aired, Greenwich invited journalists to 'go back to school' to try the food on the Meal Deal menu. A taster session in Leicester Square had to be set up to meet the demand for the fare, all of which was cooked by borough catering staff.
Measurement and Evaluation
A survey of catering staff showed morale increased by 32 per cent as a result of the project, while local schools have reported an increased popularity of school dinners.
More than 215 articles appeared in local, national and international media - only two were negative. More than four million people tuned in to the first episode of Jamie's School Dinners - impressive for a Channel 4 show.
The Meal Deal scheme won the interest of the Government, which subsequently announced guidelines for healthy eating in schools.
Greenwich has pledged that it will increase its spend on the provision of school meals.
Pat Gaudin, head of corporate strategy and comms at Chelmsford Borough Council, is chair of the CIPR's Local Government Group
By the time entries were judged, Jamie's School Dinners had already hit the headlines. Viewing figures for the Channel 4 show were in the millions, and what started in one London borough captured the nation's interest.
The CIPR judging process is rigorous, culminating in shortlist interviews.
This last element was crucial but Greenwich stood up to intense scrutiny, proving its effort was a thoroughly comprehensive campaign with clearly defined, focused objectives and creative ways of reaching audiences.
Greenwich was a sound example of PR planning and implementation, which included evaluation of effectiveness as well as measurement. What made it stand out further was groundbreaking work leading to national awareness and top-level action.
Other local authorities have introduced healthy menus for schools and devised imaginative ways to change attitudes and eating habits among children, but the national take-up of Greenwich's campaign was unprecedented.
The campaign was creative in a variety of ways, but Greenwich's decision to take the brave step to allow a crew to film was crucial. We are yet to see its full, final effect, but know the ramifications will be far-reaching.