British Food Fortnight and School Food Culture
Inspiring insights from School Ambassadors on UK Health Radio
With British Food Fortnight running from 17th September to the 2nd October 2016 there’s no better time to celebrate the outstanding achievements of so many amazing British food and drink initiatives across the UK. British Food Fortnight was established by Love British Food in the wake of the Foot and Mouth crisis in 2002 and serves as a flagship national celebration raising the profile of British Food and increasing support for many public sector organisations who are working to transform food culture. British food focuses on local produce reducing the carbon footprint and ensuring fresher food on your table. Love British Food 2016 is sponsored by Co-op Food and a Partner of The Great British Food Campaign. The Love British Food website is a year-round source of advice on producing, buying and eating British, and includes information for all sectors on how to get involved with, and organise, British Food promotions and events across the UK. Key ambassadors for Love British Food include chef Raymond Blanc, Milly Fyfe and Olivier Blanc.
The importance of getting involved in growing, cooking and celebrating home produce is very much hot topic for family health. Working with children and developing a good school food culture is a huge initiative for both the Department of Education and Public Health England alongside the launch of the Childhood Obesity Strategy. We cannot underestimate the importance of raising awareness about food and health amongst school staff and pupils, as well as those in the wider community, including parents. The value of good food culture has the potential to impact on health, wellbeing and attainment. With statistics of escalating tooth decay, obesity rates, diabetes, cancer etc. food education is vital. There is some amazing good practice across the UK and 2 leading ambassadors for school food are Headteacher Tim Baker and Oliver Blanc.
Tim Baker is Headteacher at Charlton Manor Primary School in South East London, Greenwich not far away from Charlton Athletic Football ground. The school has 460 children, from nursery to year 6 and they also have a crèche. 47 different languages are spoken in the school and 67% of the children come from ethnic minority backgrounds with about 50% having free school meals. The school has been identified as having 80% of their students coming from some of the most deprived areas in the country. When Tim came to Charlton Manor in 1999 schools were starting to talk about food and he thought back to his childhood with vegetables plots in back gardens and home cooking and identified a significant change in society. With this in mind his first priority was to establish a school garden and the natural progression was to set up a teaching kitchen, which would help the children understand how to cook the food they were pulling up from the ground or picking off plants. Tim feels the greatest impact of the food focus at Charlton Manor has been on behaviour, team-work and support for the practical learner which has made the school a calmer, happier and progressive place to be.
Tim didn’t stop with the garden and a teaching space he has embraced food culture far beyond these areas. Some of the amazing practice at Charlton Manor also includes:
- A full teaching kitchen with a full-time chef to work with all classes on a regular basis to teach cooking and nutrition and food through and across
- Negotiations with the school catering provider to produce quality school meals enjoyed by both children (90% uptake) and adults.
- Free school meals for teachers, when they dine with the children.
- A quality dining experience for all with small round tables of 4, laid places and older pupils waiting the tables. The waiters also take responsibility for wiping down tables, resetting places and helping younger children.
- Parents and local elderly residents are invited in each week for lunch and further enhance the social experience of lunchtime.
- The school dining room is also used outside school hours as a community café, e.g. after school and on Saturday mornings and all run by children.
- Chickens in the school garden with children helping to collect eggs and look after them.
- Beehives with older children learning bee keeping and selling their school honey at events and at Borough market.
- A school gardener to work on the school allotment and garden. Produce gets sold to local restaurants and at Borough market by the older children.
- External links with chefs, food producers and suppliers who engage with the school and opportunities also extend into international visits for staff to see and share good practice.
Charlton Manor Primary celebrates their amazing achievements with regard to School Food Culture and actively encourages other schools to make contact and visit. They also run conferences and training programmes for teachers and have plans to launch their own book about Food across the curriculum in the near future.
Another huge advocate working to support schools and an ambassador for Love British Food is Olivier Blanc who was born into a food loving family. With the celebrated chef, Raymond Blanc as his father and his mother being a cordon bleu trained home cook, a solid foundation of food appreciation was established from a young age. A number of years ago he began working with schools and developed the Henri Le Worm app, which has attracted great reviews and success including No1 spot in Apple’s Education Category as well as several awards. Olivier advocates the importance of health, family and the environment, which he feels can all be taught through food.
Olivier feels the success of any school embracing food culture is reliant on the Head Teacher having a vision to lead the school. The impact of this can be huge as it engages children, provides them with fuel for learning and a fun, focus about food teaching children about responsibility and how to behave and socialise during mealtimes. Fundamentally, the process of growing food is an opportunity to nurture something and also raise esteem when it grows and can be eaten. Herbs are a perfect introduction to growing food in schools and they can then be used directly in school lunches. Gardens also provide a ideal platform for learning and teaching in a practical, imaginative way which will lay down amazing memories for young children. Olivier works with many schools and offers his help for free including how to improve your school food culture and not one school that he has worked with hasn’t had positive results.
To hear this interview in full click here.
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To contact Ted Baker (Headteacher) or find out more about Charlton Manor Primary visit: www.charltonmanorprimary.co.uk
To contact Olivier Blanc and find out more about Henri Le Worm visit:
Web address: www.henrileworm.com