Making healthy food fun for local school children is going from strength to strength since The Food Explorers started 18 months ago. It’s founders Alison Aylen and Jenny Hewlett are on a mission to encourage primary school children to get excited about the food they eat through hands-on learning: growing, harvesting and cooking food. Five schools have been visited by the pair this year and four are due to turn over a new leaf next term. With their support, some of these local primary schools have already been granted a Healthy Schools partnership award. (Thomas Jones Primary just received a Gold Award after participating in the Food Explorers Week.)
Last year the Food Explorers had a serendipitous meeting with Terry Oliver who heads up RBKC’s Environmental team. His mandate is to green community space in the borough. “We connect with hundreds of children in RBKC,” says Aylen. “So it’s been a brilliant partnership. We find schools that want to improve or create new garden space and we enter the schools into Food Growing Schools Pilot.”
Says Oliver: “The pilot involves installing a food growing garden in each school and providing regular gardening support and training for the whole school. A dedicated school gardener will work with pupils, teachers and parents to develop the gardens and teach gardening. The aim of the project is to make sure each school has a fully functioning food growing garden, and the school is confident and knowledgeable in growing their own fruit and vegetables, as well as an education tool”.
The Food Explorers are currently being approached by a number of primary schools to run their week-long programme of interactive field trips and lessons, part of which involves planting vegetables and herbs, harvesting those they have already planted and cooking healthy meals with local chefs and food experts. Terry’s Food Growing pilot also installs school teaching gardens and provides the teachers with training in how to teach gardening to students. Ashburnham Community and Bevington Primary have already benefited from this pilot and are reaping the benefits of strong growing, harvesting and cooking programmes.
“We want to reach as many students we can in the borough,” says Hewlett, “After surveying the school children about their food knowledge and habits, we are able to design a Food Explorers Week specific to each school’s needs.”
Empty Classroom Day is on 19th June and as part of the 150th Portobello & Golborne Market Anniversary The Food Explorers have partnered with RBKC Markets to get children out of the classroom and to their local market where they will participate in a fruit and vegetable scavenger hunt. RBKC market director, Mark Atkinson, explains: “The students will experiment with market fruit, vegetables and herbs to make their own ices with the help of the artists from Operation Deep Freeze. Over 300 local schoolchildren from four local schools will visit the market and participate in a colourful International Food Cafe in Tavistock Square filled with local food businesses serving delicious food from Jamaican patties to fresh fish and seafood salad from George’s Fisheries, to Spanish paella from La Bodega, to falafel from Falafel King to a delicious BBQ from Provenance butchers. We are very excited to partner with the Food Explorers on this dynamic market event.”
At the same time Year 4 students from Fox and Bevington primary schools will research the cultural food heritage of the Portobello and Golborne market bringing to life the vital role it has played in the lives of diverse local communities. The Food Explorers will be creating a short film about the multicultural food history of the market with these school children, to be screened in local schools and during the Portobello Film Festival in September.
Funding for this new Community Interest Company comes from RBKC’s City Living, Local Life and other one-off donations from local businesses, schools and individuals. thefoodexplorers