Following the success of a visit to St. Michael’s primary school last year, we at FoodCycle were keen to embark on some more school excursions. Our recent trip to Bridge Farm Primary School is the beginning of what we hope to develop into a well rounded educational project presented by the Bristol FoodCycle team.
Education is a vital part of our endeavour, however we are fully aware that in practise it is something that we often to become overlooked. Producing a substantial and well-balanced meal out of surplus food at the Sunday kitchen not only provides for those in needs but also demonstrates the extreme quantity that is unnecessarily wasted every week. This being said, it is difficult to consistently convey such a message to the wider public, who often feel (mistakenly) that they are not entitled to eat at the weekly meal. Furthermore, given the fact that the larger proportion of our Sunday customers do come from impoverished backgrounds, the promotion of healthy eating can fall by the wayside in an attempt to fill bellies. We are keen to turn this around and prove that promoting food sustainability and health really do go hand in hand to combat a multitude of issues faced by both the developed and the developing world including food poverty, famine, modern epidemics such as obesity and diabetes as well as environmental issues and climate change.
We can all agree that no matter how rich poor old young food is a universal interest, as well as being a necessity, and can be used to get anyone’s attention. We want to start educating people early, so that the habits of those that have become aware become intrinsic for the next generation. We believe it is crucial for the future state of the planet and its population for young people to be exposed to information regarding sources of their food as well as receiving fundamental nutritional education. It seems insane, given modern western society, that sex education is a fundamental feature in the curriculum throughout the years but theres is very little, if any at all, attention paid to the detrimental effects of poor diet and the consequences of waste and production by the food industry.
Telling kids not to waste food because people are starving in Africa, for example, does not cut it. Not only does it just scratch the surface of such issues, it is a scenario too far removed from their daily lives that sooner or later they cease to be shocked by such facts. Likewise, exposure to people starving on the streets sooner or later becomes part of normal daily life, allowing us to become guilty of ignoring such matters. The best we can do is provoke excitement rather than using pure shock tactics. The combination of excitement and shock upon receiving vast quantities of food to eat and cook with alongside the acknowledgement of the sheer volume of waste is an interesting one and something that has a long-lasting impact.
This is why we decided to go to Bridge Farm primary school, with a collection of surplus produce, in the hope to impart some of this feeling onto some 7-year olds. We were pleasantly surprised by their depth of knowledge about food waste, something which we thought to be quite unique. It would appear that that issues related to waste and the extent to which both the producers and the consumers contribute to the statistics are slowly being elucidated in our society, which is an excellent first step preceding real change. However, we want to go a step further and develop creative skills amongst young children, reignite excitement for food and promote the enjoyment of cooking. The latter of which has declined in recent decades for reasons varying from convenience to lack of knowledge, education and exposure.
Keeping it simple, the school proposed the design of a smoothie or soup which suited us due the high volumes of fruit and vegetables we receive on collection. We introduced the session in the morning by presenting our collection of food and opening up a discussion surrounding the following points; quality of food (what was fit for use and what wasn’t), the key indications of food that shouldn’t be eaten (using sight, smell and touch), and creating and developing ideas for use in meals. We based this activity on the way we conduct our Sunday cook sessions to give the children a contextualised explanation of what we at FoodCycle do whilst allowing them to be involved with their own ideas as much as possible.
Given the opportunity to handle the produce and express their ideas caused great excitement, which is exactly what we were hoping for. When it comes to quality, kids tend to be purists, they aren’t worried about sell by dates and can usually tell, with better accuracy than many of our Sunday volunteers, whether something is suitable for human consumption. How is it possible that a bunch of 7-year olds can have more common sense than the average adult? That is a question left unanswered and something for us each to consider individually… Self-questioning many of the decisions we make could go a long way towards true consideration for food and diet related issues.
The smoothies were made in the afternoon and served to the parents at the end of the day. The children were also encouraged to take home some of the produce that was not incorporated, which they did as they were brimming with ideas and possible new uses for vegetables or had discovered some obscure vegetable for the first time. We left them with some recipe cards, such as the banana cake recipe for which FoodCycle is famous for. These were designed to be easily followed and incorporated ingredients that are frequently wasted or would be likely to be found in most households. They also included suggestions for substitutions that could be made to encourage creative thinking with cooking. This was also to invoke the idea that recipes do not always have to be followed with such precision and that lack of resources, or allergies and intolerances, should not be a deterrent in the kitchen. We hope to develop these into a series which could become part of an educational package that can be used by schools or in conjunction with future activity days such as this one.
Any ideas are very welcome so if you have any recipes or just want to make some general comments or suggestions relating to food education don’t hesitate to send them to us, you can contact us via our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/foodcyclebrist or drop us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org