SCHOOL dinners are turning green thanks to a former marine biologist whose business serves 380,000 meals to pupils each year.

Some meal suppliers provide meals in foil trays which are likely to end up in landfill, but Declan O’Toole’s company Forerunner provides containers which are returned, washed and reused.

With pupils in all three years of Key Stage One entitled to free meals, he says the environmental impact quickly adds up.

Southbourne-based Forerunner also uses local suppliers where possible and sends all food waste for composting.

Mr O’Toole said: “I’ve been very fortunate in my time to have worked all around the world as a marine biologist and seen first-hand not only how beautiful our planet is but also how fragile it is.

“We can all make a difference to the climate crisis as small business owners and individuals but we all have to make those changes to have an impact – and it doesn’t matter how small; it’s the cumulative effect that matters.

“For me it was a no brainer when setting up Forerunner to devise a way of delivering school meals in the most environmentally friendly way possible.

“Our food is delivered in metal dishes that will last a lifetime, any waste is composted, we use local suppliers and only serve local schools.

“The menus themselves always contain a vegetarian and jacket potato option and the ingredients are freshly cooked and prepared on our premises.”

Forerunner provides school meals to 14 primary schools and nurseries across Dorset, catering for around 2,000 pupils every day.

The company devises its termly menus with input from the schools and also delivers taster sessions at parents’ evenings.

Its three chefs and three catering assistants prepare dishes from locally sourced ingredients at Forerunner’s Southbourne kitchen.

Mr O’Toole said: “If we’re going to contribute to minimising our impact on the climate, then companies, people and families, may have to spend a bit more money and invest in greener practices.”

He is originally from Australia and says the bush fires there should be a wake-up call for the world.

“When I grew up in Australia we usually had one week of 40-plus degree temperatures in the height of our summer in February – those type of temperatures in December were unheard of,” he said.

“We need to think carefully about how our actions impact on the planet. Can we do whatever we’re doing in a more climate friendly way, but still do it well?”

Mr O'Toole also runs sister business Table Mates, which aims to get work colleagues talking over food at lunchtime.