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Catering Award Winners Serving Up Excellence

Catering Award Winners Serving Up Excellence

It was a good day for the SELB’s school meals service at the recent Northern Ireland School Caterers Association Awards hosted at W5 in Belfast’s Odyssey Complex.

Area manager Helen Holland won the Management award while her colleague Dorothy Kane shared the Lifetime Achievement award in recognition of 38 years of excellent service.

Fittingly the awards were handed out by Education Minister John O’Dowd, who previously worked as a chef before pursuing a full-time career in politics.

The enthusiastic Holland has been with the Board for a quarter of a century, initially as a unit supervisor before promotion eight years ago to the post of Nutritional Standards Co-ordinator.

In that capacity she was heavily involved with the initial set up of healthy and nutritional meals being served throughout the school system, something which has brought benefits to thousands of young people.

Last year the dynamic Middletown woman became area manager for the Cookstown and Dungannon districts, a multi-faceted role in which she manages 76 unit supervisors spread over a wide geographic area.

Always striving to drive productivity and high standards, Helen gets a big buzz from her chosen career and, as the ‘new kid on the block’ among the nominees, said she was “absolutely delighted” to receive the Management award.

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Hellen Holland Finalist SELB
Helen Holland (on the right) receiving her Management award from John O'Dowd

Donacloney lady Dorothy Kane began her school catering service career back in 1976 as a supervisor at Aughnacloy High School before becoming an Area Supervisor for Armagh City and District for 23 years up until 2001.  She then transferred to her present post, a similar role covering the Craigavon Council area, in which she is responsible for managing 54 unit supervisors.

Although she has had the same job title for the past 36 years, Dorothy has seen many changes in the course of her catering career with constant changes in the school meals service.

Initially torn between food and health as her career choice back in the mid-1970s, the affable Kane reveals she had applied for three jobs in a particular week and landing the Aughnacloy post proved decisive.

It is a choice she has never regretted in the course of four fulfilling decades and during that time Dorothy has gained greatest satisfaction from supporting colleagues within the service and assisting their personal development.

Dedicated to her vocation, she speaks with humanity and passion about the pleasure she gets from not only training her staff to the highest standards but really getting to know them in a way which helps her offer empathetic support.

“I love helping people so seeing staff progress and achieve success is very rewarding.  I’m totally stunned to receive this award but chuffed to bits.  Obviously it’s lovely to get the personal recognition for the many years spent working in school meals but a tribute to the entire service and so many valued and dedicated colleagues.”

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Dorothy Kane Finalist Lifetime Achievement
Dorothy Kane (on the right) receiving her Lifetime Achievement award from John O'Dowd

Among the highlights of their respective careers to date, Helen and Dorothy have catered for national and international dignitaries and VIPs including Ministers, Presidents and even the Queen when they have visited SELB schools.

St Mary’s Primary School in Stewartstown and Lurgan Junior High School were the SELB regional winners in the respective school categories at the NISCA Awards.

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St Marys Stewartstown Finalist
St Mary's PS, Stewartstown – Finalists in the Primary/Special School category
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Lurgan JHS Finalist SELB
Finalists in the Post Primary School category


The Southern Education and Library Board (the ‘Board’) was established as part of Local Government reorganisation in 1973 and is the largest of the five area Boards. The Board's principle functions are the provision of education and youth services to the District Council areas of Armagh, Banbridge, Cookstown, Craigavon, Dungannon & South Tyrone and Newry & Mourne. It spans 1,450 square miles with a total population of approximately 390,300 including 75,767 pupils.


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