Holly Piper

Head of CAF Venturesome

Charities Aid Foundation


14 August 2015

At CAF Venturesome, the average length of a social investment is three to five years although often the relationship with the charity or social enterprise is longer than this. This is not necessarily a good thing - an ongoing reliance on our finance could be a sign of poor cash management or a deteriorating business plan. However, a long relationship can be due to supporting a social organisation through a number of stages of growth as they strengthen. 

Local Food Links fits firmly into the second category. Our first facility was in 2011 from our Bridging Fund for £75,000. This was a short term solution to help with seasonal cashflows and was fully repaid in one year. Last year Local Food Links approached us again, this time they had an exciting opportunity to grow and the impact our funding could have was clear. This current facility is a £150,000 loan from the Development Fund.

Local Food Links (LFL) have a mission to ensure school children have access to healthy school dinners. Over the past 30 years, school food has shifted from being produced on site in the school kitchens to external commercial caterers providing food which is often low quality. Recent high profile campaigns created momentum for change with one of the outcomes being the provision of free school meals for primary school children aged 5-7 years.

LFL 2017

Local Food Links were in a prime position to capitalise on this increased demand and needed finance to build the capacity in their kitchens. LFL prepare and cook the food in regional hub kitchens in the South-West and deliver it as hot meals into the schools. The investment they made into their catering facilities has been hugely successful, allowing them to meet all the obligations of the new provisions and deliver high quality food to the schools. LFL have more than doubled the number of meals delivered to schools in one year.

Local Food Links is extremely grateful to CAF Venturesome for providing the loan which enabled our organisation to grow and continue working with all of our schools, as well as taking on some new ones. Our schools are delighted that Local Food Links rose to the challenge of providing meals on a much larger scale, whilst maintaining excellent quality and the values of local and ethical sourcing.”

Caroline Morgan, CEO , Local Food Links

Through the expansion, LFL have managed to maintain their emphasis on locally sourced ingredients with 90% from the South West. Schools that LFL work with have reported:

  • Increased attention from pupils in the afternoon – some of the schools have been able to shift literacy lessons to the afternoon as a result;
  • Reduced absences - although this could be due to a range of factors, the schools believe that an improved diet has helped;
  • And, improved eating skills – which has stemmed from using a knife and fork as the pupils sit down together and eat a plate of food, rather than eating a packed lunch with their hands.

LFL have worked incredibly hard to establish a market share in Dorset and have capitalised on the legislative changes. They invested at the right time and managed a huge uplift in their activities. Being able to work with a socialorganisation over an extended period of time has been both exciting and rewarding for CAF Venturesome.

Want to know more about CAF Venturesome? 

Talk to our team on 03000 123 300 or email us at venturesome@cafonline.org and we’ll be happy to help.