‘I Cooked It!’: Meet The Schools Where Pupils Grow, Pick And Cook Their Own Lunch
In the queue for school lunch, Zuriel, a six-year-old, looked at the vegetable noodles and murmured that he did not want to eat them because there were things he had never tasted before. Ali, a seven-year-old boy standing nearby, overheard and exclaimed that he had cooked the noodles that morning using exciting and delicious vegetables. Zuriel looked into his eyes and whispered a thank you before deciding to try the food.
Greenside Primary School in inner-city London is an alternative state school that integrates food into its curriculum across various subjects. With their own vegetable garden, the children grow, pick, and cook their own school lunches that are exclusively vegetarian. The school also has a field where the children sow and harvest wheat to make their own bread, which they sell and donate a share to the local food banks.
The school’s executive head, Karen Bastick-Styles, believes that educating children on how food is grown and made is vital since food production has the most significant impact on the planet. More schools are following this trend of teaching children about the food system. Chefs in Schools co-founder, Nicole Pisani, explains that 50% of the 58 schools working with the food transformation charity joined in the last two years. Education around food is vital, according to Pisani, but it is essential to inspire young minds to carry forward the skills they learned in school.
Cracking Good Food’s Gemma Foxcroft echoes the importance of teaching children about growing and cooking food, especially in families that do not know how to cook. Despite a rising number of unhealthy and overweight children in the UK, the government’s new food strategy offers only £250 per English state school to teach healthy eating.
At Mandeville Primary in east London, students have been amazed by squid and vegetables, which they may not have encountered before. The headteacher, Louise Nichols, explains that many of these children come from housing estates without access to outside space, making it challenging to recognise natural, healthy foods. Children must learn how to prepare and cook vegetables to develop healthy habits, Nichols argues. Schools can inspire young minds to learn more about the food system through a packed curriculum.
Woodmansterne school, located in the borough of Lambeth, has integrated GCSE-level cookery into its curriculum for students in years 10 and 12. This culinary program is carried out in collaboration with Leith’s cookery college to provide students with practical cooking skills and knowledge.
Another noteworthy initiative in the field of education is Totteridge academy’s collaboration with Grow Farm, which is situated on the school’s premises. Children are exposed to the concepts of topsoil, seasonality, and food harvesting as a part of their regular curriculum, thanks to this partnership.
Bealings primary school, situated in Suffolk, is equipped with on-site polytunnels and a pizza oven to facilitate learning. Additionally, children at the school recently had the opportunity to learn about regenerative farming practices in the fields behind the Grange Farm shop. This hands-on learning experience allowed the pupils to gain knowledge about the importance of sustainable agriculture and the impact of farming practices on the environment.