Devon Norse kitchen manager Jacqui Ritchie, who has worked tirelessly to promote healthy food options for children and reduce the amount of single use plastics in her school kitchen at Hemyock Primary in Mid Devon, won this year’s Unsung Hero Award at the Lead Association for Catering in Education (LACA) Awards for Excellence.

The award celebrates unsung heroes within the school catering industry who demonstrate amazing dedication, and go above and beyond in their role. The award also demonstrates the individual’s added value to the industry, new initiatives or even a unique situation that benefited the school catering service in some way.

Jacqui is a Devon Norse Sugar Smart Ambassador, as well as a CSR Champion, having built up an onsite herb and fruit and vegetable garden where ingredients are grown, nurtured by the children and then used in the school’s lunches.

She also runs afterschool baking classes and fought off strong competition from the rest of the country to win the category.

Jacqui received a trophy, framed certificate and a cheque for £500 to commemorate her big win. TV presenter Dr David Bull, pictured left, helped present the awards at the ceremony held in Birmingham last Thursday (July 11).

The theme for this year’s conference was ‘A healthy and sustainable future’.

Devon Norse’s Catering Operations Manager, Sarah Harrison, said: “The annual LACA awards are probably the most prestigious of its kind within the national catering sector. To be shortlisted is an amazing achievement, and then to win is just outstanding.

“The award really is testament to the hard work and dedication that Jacqui has towards her role. She is constantly challenging herself to do more and implement changes that benefit the business. We couldn’t be happier.”