You can run food-related fundraisers at any time of year, but given that October is full of food-related campaigns such as National Curry Week, National Baking Week, and World Food Day, it seems like the perfect fundraising event for the autumn term.
'Mucky dip' at Halloween
'Mucky dip was simply really, it was a game we had at our Halloween themed disco. We have a large flexi tub/bucket which you can easily pick up for around £3 or £4 in supermarkets. All the PTA members cook up spaghetti pasta and bring it into school prior to the disco. A couple of us also made up jelly just to give the 'slime factor' to it. We mixed the spaghetti and jelly together and threw in some goodies including lollies, mini packets of sweets, plastic spiders and Halloween toys. We gave it another mix just to make sure all the toys were hidden! Last time we charged 20p a go because we wanted to see how well it would go down and had over 60 kids have a go. Make sure there are plenty of napkins, kitchen roll or similar on stand by as it gets very very messy! The kids loved it, I think we had to put more sweets and that in last time as it was so popular!'
Pearl Hughes, secretary, Parclewis Primary School, South Wales (210 pupils)
'The PTA Chair at another school suggested a "pop-up restaurant" fundraiser. Two parents at our school - Al and Helen - are professional chefs and agreed to help. We transformed the school canteen! We had rows of tables and benches and kept it simple, using brown paper for table cloths and black sugar paper runners as tablemats. We dressed tables with fairy lights and tea lights in jars. Al (who runs a catering kitchen) worked on our menu, sourcing ingredients at cost through his suppliers.
The first course was a butternut squash salad with sage oil, orange and toasted seeds, followed by chicken breast with wild mushrooms, caramelised button onions and Madeira jus or wild mushroom and spinach wellington; both served with hasselback potatoes and seasonal greens. Dessert was a rich chocolate cake served with whipped cream, or stewed plums and custard, followed by a cheese board with chutney, pears and coffee (donated by Starbucks)! Starbucks support all our events, donating coffee in an urn that holds 92 cups. We pay a £50 deposit - they also provide milk, tea and sugar. The platters for the cheese were tiles donated by a local tile shop, and an estate agent sponsored the cheese board for £100! We visited farmers' markets to find the cheese, and our local supermarket donated olives and nuts. We selected four wines from Majestic Wine and set up a tasting table so that diners could try before buying.
We took bookings in advance, charging £20 per head (wine was either £10 or £15 per bottle) and it wasn't long before we were fully booked - 100 diners including 35 diners that weren't parents at our school! A parent played the piano and sung throughout the meal adding to the ambience. Once all courses were served, our volunteers sat down to eat together.
Next time I would charge more as everyone said the evening was too cheap and far exceeded their expectations. Our costs were £1,462 but after taking £2,762, we made a profit of £1,300! It was a great opportunity for friends to get together to enjoy good company, excellent food and to support the school.'
Ellie Sales, PTA Chair, Hazelwood School, London (660 pupils)
A taste of round the world
'Our international evening really helped connect with parents who don't normally get involved with PTA events. The event ran from 6.30-8.30pm and we invited whole families to attend. The first hour allowed everyone to taste foods from around the world, which represented the variety of nationalities in the school - Jamaican, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Lebanese, Greek and Swedish. We charged £2.50 for entrance and 50p for food tokens, which were exchanged for tapas style serving of food from whichever stalls they fancied. The food was mostly served and prepared by families at the school, but we also approached local restaurants for donations. They were very generous in lending us heating trays and providing food such as prawn crackers, spring rolls, onion bhajis, pizzas and so on. Our bar included beers from around the world too!'
Claire Henderson, chair, Tyntesfield Primary school, Cheshire (404 pupils)
Takeaway curry club
'We had planned to hold our annual curry and quiz night for the autumn term, but didn't have the usual take-up in ticket sales. We didn't want to cancel the event entirely, so we decided to offer those with a ticket a takeaway curry to reheat and enjoy at home. It seemed everyone thought it was a great idea and it quickly became popular!
We took orders from two weeks up until three days before the event, with some extras sold on the day. For the first event we took 50 orders via the playground and school office, and the second took more than 70.Through my glamping business, Mrs Mills' Yurts, I cook campfire suppers for guests, so I had lots of catering experience. Our first menu offered beef madras or vegetarian korma. Each serving came with spiced potatoes, naan bread, rice, poppadoms, pickles and onion relish, plus tiffin for dessert. For the second event we had more choice: lamb curry, chicken korma and spiced aubergine curry. We found that more choice prompted more sales.
As a registered food business, my kitchen was used for preparation. I sourced the ingredients from a local butcher and our local farm shop donated vegetables. It took six hours to produce 70 curries and portion them up with the help of a team of volunteers.
Each meal cost £3-4 to make, and we made them the day before. On the day, we bagged up the orders with packaging from Booker, adding a hand-drawn label, napkins, cooking instructions and a fresh flower posy. It looked fabulous! The food was stored in my large fridge until an hour before collection time, when I transported the food to school in polystyrene containers. Orders were then collected from the school gate.
We charged £10 per meal, with most people taking two curries for a family. And groups of friends ordered and ate together. Everyone loved it, and we raised around £500! It's a great way for parents to support the PTA without the time commitment, and we're confident it's going to be a regular event.'
Nicola Mills, PTA member, Tibberton Community Primary School, Tibberton, Gloustershire (107 pupils)
Good old fashioned carvery
'Our school is set in the foothills of Exmoor. The Quiz and Carvery night is held twice a year and is run in a nearby pub. The pub organise the carvery/catering aspect of the evening and indeed set all the quiz questions. The PTA publicise and promote the evening and organise the selling of tickets. We have teams of 4 - 6 people and the ticket price of £10 per person includes the carvery and entry to the quiz. The PTA also provides a quizmaster. Our night starts at 7.30pm and half of the quiz is done before food is served and completed after everyone has eaten. The PTA and pub share the ticket price (£5 each). We also run a raffle. Our winning team get their ticket price back (but actually often donate it back). These evenings are really sociable and fun with good food thrown in, ideal! It also attracts all members of the community and so potential for fundraising is greater. Our best-attended evening sold approx. 80 tickets and with the raffle raised over £1000, even our quieter quizzes have made in excess of £500. Our next is on Friday 22nd November.'
Steph Harris, chair, North Molton Primary School, Devon (100 pupils)
'We've been running bake-off competitions for around four years. We hold four each year, one per year group. We choose a theme, either something seasonal such as Valentine's day or bonfire night, or something related to what the children are learning in school, for example a country they are studying.
The children receive a flyer inviting them to enter small cakes or biscuits, as these are easier to sell. There is no cost to enter as people are already donating their ingredients and time to make the cakes, so the profit comes from the cake sales. We usually receive around 20 entries, which we find is a sufficient number for the sale.
Cakes are judged by school staff in the afternoon. The relevant year group then comes into the hall for the awarding of the prizes, where the judge will give their verdict on all entries and the overall winner is awarded a "star baker" apron or a book voucher. All the children who enter get a bag of sweets as a thank you.
The cakes go on sale after school to the whole school community. We usually raise about £120, which goes into our central pot. The children really enjoy taking part, and it doesn't require a lot of organisation or volunteers.'
Elizabeth Tucker, PTA chair, St Nicolas E Junior School, Newbury, Berkshire (256 pupils)
'We are lucky to have an active PTA, which is well supported by current parents, past parents and the local community. Our first safari supper was held 14 years ago. It was such a huge success it has continued annually, and last year we hosted 90 guests! The event involves a roaming three-course dinner around the village of Speen. Guests are asked to collect their invitations from the local village shop (Speen Stores) on the morning of the supper.
Ten parents open up their houses as hosts, each catering for 6-8 guests. The invite will tell each guest the address of their host for the first course. The guests will not know whom their fellow diners are (the rest of their pride) until they arrive at the host's house! As the first course comes to an end, guests are given another envelope telling them the address of the host house for their main course. All guests will be with different diners for this course.
Desserts are served back at the school, allowing all the guests to get together and compare their dining experiences! The PTA provides a disco and bar - after all, everyone enjoys a good boogie on a Saturday night, especially when our Head is the first on the dancefloor! The cost of the evening has increased over the years and we now charge £22.50 per person, which includes the 3-course meal plus wine served with each course.
The hosts are provided with the wine by the PTA and are encouraged to claim expenses for the food (although no host has ever claimed yet!). Last year we raised nearly £1,000, which is amazing for a school of just 40 children. I would encourage any PTA to give this type of event a go; it is a great way of integrating a school with the community. While it isn't the easiest of fundraisers for the organisers, it is well worth it.'
Helen Davies, PTA Vice-Chair, Speen CofE School, Princes Risborough, Bucks (40 pupils)
TIP: The aim of a safari supper is that guests meet as many different people as possible, so the trick for those planning this event is for no two pairs to eat more than one course together! Hold a safari supper at the end or beginning of a school year, with parents of new starters invited to attend.
Looking to buy the food for your fundraiser or event?
Sign up with Booker for low prices and great goods. Sara Seabourne, PTA chair at Oxbridge Lane Primary school, Stockton-On-Tees, said 'I went to our local Booker store to stock up for our disco - the staff were lovely, we found everything we needed and it was all quite a bit cheaper than places we have used in the past!' Register for an account at email@example.com.