Why I am partnering with Chefs in Schools

For a long time, I have been passionate about the potential role that food can play in the lives of children and young people. While of course, I am particularly interested in this from a nutritional science perspective, I have also come to appreciate the importance of approaching the topic with a much wider lens of vision: from encouraging young people to enjoy food and feel confident cooking, to education about farming and food production, to appreciation and understanding of the wider economic, social and cultural impacts that can influence all of our food choices, as well as the devastating impact of rising childhood food poverty.

It’s a vastly complex topic, and one that I am also ever conscious may be overlaid with a lot of emotion and strong feelings. And as a busy parent myself, I certainly know how hard it can be to get kids to engage with, and eat only nutritious food! There has to be a hefty dose of realism attached to any discussions on this topic. Yet despite all of this, I still feel deeply that feeding our children as well as we can, and encouraging them to develop a love of good food, is incredibly important – as parents, as educators and as a society.

It is for all of those reasons that I positively leapt at the opportunity to work alongside Chefs in Schools, an incredible charity whose mission is to encourage and enable schools across the UK to serve great, creative school food – that doesn’t just fill young people up, but feeds their imagination too. They believe that teaching the next generation how to cook and enjoy real, tasty food is crucial to their long-term physical and mental health. I couldn’t agree more.

Photo by Kate Kuzminova

They have three key objectives:

1.To work directly with schools to improve the food, and food education, offered to pupils.

This support is tailored to each individual school, but might include training existing kitchen teams or recruiting new chefs, as well as providing professional training programmes for school cooks, chefs and keen amateurs.

2.To develop materials, resources and training programmes to help all schools achieve better food.

One of these incredible resources is the new Hackney School of Food, a community garden and cookery school where young people and families from across London can learn to grow their own produce and cook affordable, healthy and balanced meals.

3.To campaign to improve children’s health through better food and food education.

Chefs in Schools campaigns to raise awareness of the importance of school food when it comes to child health. They also believe that food can be a tool for social mobility as hungry children don’t learn. Children across the country are missing meals day-in, day-out, and the meals provided by school might be their only food for the day. Food is fundamental to survival. Without food, little else matters. Chefs in Schools wants every school meal to be a good one and wants all children to learn kitchen skills.

Please, please watch and share this hard-hitting but very real and important campaign video.

Over the coming months, and hopefully years, I shall be sharing lots more about this collaboration, as well as resources and information on childhood nutrition, family friendly balanced recipes and inspiration for helping encourage kids into the garden and kitchen.

In the meantime, here are a few links and resources you might be interested in:

If you are a parent…

… and wish to support improvements in the food provision at your children’s school, please consider sharing the following with the teachers or headteacher;

Do also take a look at the free cook-alongs from the Hackney School of Food for some practical inspiration and ideas for family friendly cooking.

Also, the Hackney School of Food is launching new virtual and in-person cook-along classes which are suitable for friends and families who want to cook together, or for team building and corporate clients. Follow Chefs in Schools on Instagram where they’ll be posting more details – @chefsinschools_uk

 

If you are a cook or chef…

… and would like to know more about working in a school (Sensible working hours! School holidays! The chance to inspire a new generation!), please complete this Chef Contact Form.

If you are an education professional…

… and are looking to improve the food at the school you work in through Chefs in Schools, please fill in this School Contact Form.

You will also find plenty of actionable resources and toolkits from the School Food Plan here.

If you’d like to learn more…

… or support Chefs in Schools, please click here.

P.s., Chefs in Schools is currently recruiting kitchen staff from state schools in Southwark and Lambeth to take part in their free School Chef Educator Qualification pilot, a free online 14-week programme starting in September 2021. Schools can request more information, or sign up to take part, by emailing yenny@chefsinschools.org.uk.