Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 600

12 MAY 202 2 3 GETTING A GRIP ON PLASTIC There’s still time to join The Big Plastic Count, the UK’s largest-ever plastic survey, running from 16-22 May. Led by anti-plastic campaigner Daniel Webb and supported by wildlife presenter Chris Packham, the aim is to get a better understanding of how much plastic is being thrown away in the UK, what happens to it and how we can reduce it. thebigplasticcount.com Pupils Gifty, seven, and Frankie, 10, swing on the branches of the tree, munch purple sprouting broccoli and tell how they learned apples are related to roses, and howmuch they love their school chef Margaret’s jerk chicken and coconut rice and her sausage, mash and (homemade) beans. Lidka works there two days a week. Children come and do lessons in the garden with their teacher and are also rewarded for good behaviour with ‘golden time’, when they can choose to visit the garden. “They just spend time with the chickens or growing withme,” says Lidka. “They do everything – digging, planting.” Yesterday, Giftymade pizza at after-school cooking club with ThomasWalker, head educator at the cookery school. “People learn in di erent ways,” he explains. “So watching me, listening tome and reading the recipe, and I also use pictures to remind them. “I think the real key to getting the children engaged is to be as excited as they are and open your mind to that sense of wonder. Maybe it’s a good philosophy for life.” Not every school has this kind of space, but you could start by just planting a few beds, suggests Lidka. Parents can speak to the head teacher or governors, adds Nicole, perhaps find a like-minded group of parents and research on the Chefs in Schools website (chefsinschools.org.uk). They’ve created a toolkit for schools to convert redundant old caretakers’ cottages into cookery schools. The one thing Nicole says she has learned is that food educationmust come before changing themenu. The kitchen and curriculum should be linked. But she believes things are changing, with a concerted e ort fromother charities like The Soil Association, Bite Back, School FoodMatters and Grow as well as the government’s Levelling UpWhite Paper published in February this year. “A lot of schools understand that you can’t have wellbeing and attainment if you’re not looking at what you’re serving in the lunch hall and the education around food,” Nicole explains. “It links tomental health, it links to concentration in the classroom. It’s something the government is now telling schools to prioritise.” The School Food Standards, which include, for example, restricting deep-fried food to nomore than two portions per week, have beenmandatory since 2015 but have not been enforced and there are fears that some schools are failing tomeet them. As part of the Levelling UpWhite Paper, the government will pilot measures for inspectors from the Food Standards Agency to check up on school lunches – amove that Nicole welcomes. Schools will also publish statements on arrangements for their ‘whole school approach’ to food. “We don’t give school food and training the importance we should,” she says. “Fundamentally, it’s about teaching kids to have a good relationship with food so if they’re hungry, they’re going to eat it. “We believe children should eat with excitement, adventure and joy.” Feed Your Family: Exciting Recipes from Chefs in Schools by Nicole Pisani and JoannaWeinberg (Pavilion) is out now HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE Frankie and Gifty hold some chickens (main); Lidka D’Agostino, Nicole Pisani and Thomas Walker ( left); Hackney School of Food’s raised beds with pizza oven and firepit (below) 1 COOK TOGETHER, EAT TOGETHER Make the preparation of food an activity that everyone can get involved in. Turn your family table into a communal one, inviting neighbours and friends on weekends, and set technology aside. 2 WHERE NECESSARY, HEALTH BY STEALTH Our priority is to teach children to love vegetables for themselves, but some are wary and it takes time, so making them integral to a recipe means you can set aside worries about nutrition. Put veg in sauces, cauliåower in mash, greens in mac and cheese, even butternut squash in a cake. 3 DON’T MAKE DINNER A BATTLEGROUND The main goal is to create a positive relationship with food. Improving children’s eating habits is a marathon not a sprint. 4 INTRODUCE NEW FLAVOURS GRADUALLY Children love spicy and umami åavours as well as foods that are exciting and new. Let them try challenging foods such as lemon and olives. Be patient and do things gradually by adding a pinch of extra åavour to meals each time to make it a journey. 5 MAKE MEALS THEATRICAL AND HAVE FUN Our chefs put out platters of beautiful vegetables and interesting salads for the children to explore. It could be a whole roasted cauliåower or tray of pea shoots with scissors to snip off. 6 SNACK ON VEG FIRST Serving it as a starter will also mean they eat more. Offer crudités, thread veg onto sticks, try broccoli stalks roasted in chopped rosemary and olive oil until crisp, raw veg in taco shells or corn cut into ‘ribs’ and roasted. 7 GROW IT Children eat what they have grown. Herbs are easy and make a dish interesting and fresher. If you live in a åat, a small cherry tomato plant on the balcony is enough. NICOLE AND JOANNA’ S GOLDEN RULES ‘You can’t have wellbeing and attainment if you’re not looking at what you’re serving in the lunch hall’