The theme of this year's LACA Main Event is "Levelling Up School Food".  With significant cost increases, staffing shortages, and funding shortfalls, providing nutritious meals to children has become increasingly challenging. In response to these challenges, LACA has launched a campaign urging all political parties to commit to a minimum funding level of PS3 per meal (index linked) in their general election manifestoes. 

The programme and features at the Main Event will address the disparities in school meals funding across the nations and explore strategies to ensure that all children and young people receive the very best school food to support their growth and learning. 

It has never been more important to establish common ground and a collective voice on the importance of school food and the growing pressures operators are facing to provide this vital service.

The ever-popular LACA Live returns with cookery demonstrations taking place in the Palace Suite on Wednesday 3rd and Thursday 4th July.
View LACA Live Programme

Our informative Workshop Sessions will run on Wednesday morning with practical, interactive sessions.
View the Workshop Programme

Main Event Delegate Programme

The programme below outlines the closed sessions which are only accessible for delegates.

Wednesday 3 July 2024

9.30 School Food Show exhibition opens

Workshop Sessions, Arden Suite

10.30 - Workshop 1: Workforce standards and apprenticeships - Beverley Baker

11.00 - Workshop 2: Case Study - Thames View Infant School, Paul Jordan

11.30 - Workshop 3: LACA Ask the Experts Judith Gregory, LACA National Vice Chair; Brad Pearce, LACA Immediate Past Chair; Derek Wright, LACA Board member.


Lunch & exhibition viewing Halls 1 & 2


12.15 - Session TBC

13.15 - McCain Foods

14.30 LACA Forum opens
Forum chair, Michael Hales
LACA's year in focus 2024
14.45 Opening Address and Introduction to this year’s Main Event
Anita Brown, LACA National Chair

Mark Sargeant, LACA Ambassador

LACA’s National Chair will be joined by the new LACA ambassador to update delegates on current plans and objectives including campaigning.


Four Nations – Levelling up School Food
Anita Brown, LACA National Chair
Judith Gregory, LACA National Vice Chair
Chris Ross, Chair, ASSIST FM
speaker TBC, Education Authority (Northern Ireland)

The disparity in funding across the UK continues to be an issue and LACA have been campaigning to ‘Level it Up’ and ensure all children get the healthy and nutritious meal they deserve. The four nations panel will discuss the campaign and its progress as well as sharing thoughts on current challenges and the solutions they are using to overcome them.


Keynote session: Ultra-Processed Foods and diet – busting the myths
Dr Michael Mosely

A topic that is never off our screen but massively misunderstood and lacking clear definitions.  Dr Michael will try and tackle the definitions of what Ultra processed is and why it is so bad for our and particularly our children's diets.  He will also apply his understanding to the school food service and how it can continue to deliver the volumes and nutritional benefits within the tight budget restrictions.

17.00 Forum day one closes
19.30 LACA informal icebreaker evening, Kings Suite

Thursday 4 July 2024


LACA Forum delegate registration opens - hotel and Monarch foyers
LACA School Food Show - exhibition opens, Palace and Monarch Suites

9.30 Forum day two opens
Forum chair, Michael Hales
Welcome and LACA Year in Focus 2024

You are what you eat – panel session
David Titman, Raising Nutrition
Speaker tbc, NFU
Nadim & Tanya Ednan-Laperouse OBE, NARF

Three presentations updating delegates on key areas such as allergens, UK farming developing towards net zero+ delivery and current thinking on nutrition and how to educate children on this subject will be followed by an investigative Q&A session.


LACA Allergens Guidance Update
Stephen Forster, ex LACA National Chair
Steph Hall, Chartwells
Megan Waring, Caterlink
Christina Etherington, HC3S

As legislation changes and research in to allergens advances the LACA guidance and risk assessment form need to keep pace.  Stephen Forster has led a team of experts who will share the new support functions available free to all LACA members. 


The missing voice: What we aren’t talking about within the school food sector.
Luke Hall, Youth voice advocate, campaigner, and global speaker


Calculating the price of a school lunch
Brad Pearce, LACA Immediate Past Chair

School Food Matters healthy zones programme have conducted detailed research into determining what it costs to produce delicious, nutritious and sustainable meals in primary, secondary, special schools and alternative provision settings in England.  Brad Pearce chaired the advisory group on the project and will share the findings that we hope will support LACA’s call for a minimum funding of £3 per child per meal.


ParentPay Research 2024 & the LACA Cost of Living Survey Update
 ParentPay and  Judith Gregory, LACA Vice-Chair

The annual survey of parental views on the school food service is now a vital benchmarking process for LACA.  Parentpay will share the results and Judith Gregory will give an update on the LACA Cost of Living research as food prices settle but we enter an election year.


Political and General Election Update
Lee Petar, Menara Communications

What can we expect under different Governments?  Some time in 2024 or January 2025 at the latest will see a general election in the UK.  LACA’s political and lobbying advisor Lee Petar will tell us what school food policies we can expect under the different party leadership and when.


Lunch and exhibition viewing including LACA Live in Hall 1


12.00 - LACA Grab 'N' Go Challenge sponsored by SchoolGrid - Now in it’s second year, the winner of the 2024 Grab & Go competition will be announced on Wednesday 3rd July and will demonstrate their winning dish on the LACA Live theatre on Thursday.

12.45 - Mark Sargent, LACA Ambassador - Former National Chef of the Year and now LACA Ambassador, Mark Sargent will give us his spin on tasty and nutritious meals for school customers.

13.45 - Tilda and Vegpower - The third winner of the Tilda/Vegpower Award will demonstrate some of the dishes they create in their schools each day to show they’re a worthy winner of this year’s award and inspire others.

14.30 Forum resumes

Getting the attention of the educated buyer – Mastering Customer Obsession: Aligning Sales, Marketing, and Engagement in the Digital Age
John Douch, Sales Tribe

John will concentrate on the concept of 'Customer Obsession'. The presentation will underscore the rapid evolution occurring across various industries and the unprecedented importance of aligning sales, marketing, and customer engagement teams to adapt to these changes.

15.15 Speaker and content TBC

Keynote session: Dr Amir Khan

The importance of nutrition in children’s diets and the impact of good nutrition at an early age on other public health bodies including the NHS.


Finishing Touches 2024
Presentation of Finishing Touches Best in Show winner followed by Chair’s handover and conference close.

16.45 Forum day two closes; exhibition ends
19.00 Drinks Reception, Pavillion Suite
19.30 LACA Awards for Excellence Dinner, Kings Suite