Teaching Kitchen to join chef-in-residence programme and pupil-run garden as part of Manorfield School’s bid to shake up food education

Manorfield Primary School is currently fundraising for a pioneering new ‘teaching kitchen’ that will seek to tackle poor health, reduce levels of obesity and impact positively on a lack of education around nutrition amongst students, parents and the wider community. The school, located in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, sees a high level of deprivation amongst its pupils and is aiming to raise £1,800 to furnish a revolutionary teaching kitchen that will see daily classes on healthy eating and cooking, as well as curriculum-linked lessons that will use food as a way to understand other cultures and times in history.

The Headteacher of Manorfield, Paul Jackson, spoke about the importance of food education as a boundary-crosser: ‘despite the barriers these children face, we’re determined they will be successful and go on to secondary school as confident, highly-educated pupils, and food is an excellent example of an area that crosses educational, personal and social needs, but which is still under-scrutinised at all levels of education’.

An above average percentage of pupils joining the school are overweight or obese, and the school has already created a chef-in-residence programme – a five-day-a-week role that sees a chef give regular classes across the school – and an award-winning ‘edible garden’ that is tended, harvested and enjoyed by the students, in order to help tackle lack of knowledge around healthy eating.

‘With this kitchen space, children will learn about healthy eating and how to prepare nutritious, tasty food at home – in time, we’ll aim to provide family cooking lessons, where children can learn alongside their parents, as well as adult cookery lessons at evenings and weekends’, Mr Jackson continued. ‘We want the children to learn how to cook the meals that are served on the school dinner menu, so that they can see the ingredients and learn more about food waste too.’

Home-growing and sustainability is something close to the Headteacher’s heart, and the Manorfield-grown rhubarb that students turned into a crumble last week comes from a plant he has tended to for ten years: ‘this is the second school the plants have followed me to!’

Once the lessons facilitated by the new kitchen have begun, the pupils at Manorfield will get to use their new understanding to have a say in what they eat for their school lunch, too: the school’s current chef-in-residence has already been working with students to develop ideas for the school menu.

The school has set up a crowdfunding page and are over a quarter of the way to their target: the kitchen will occupy a renovated space in the current nursery space (after the nursery children move into their brand-new building), and the equipment set to furnish it will provide the means to cook a wide variety of meals as well as being well-suited for an educational environment. Mr Jackson says he sees it as ‘vital for learning and development: the educational adventures this kitchen will lead to will grow children’s vocabularies and their ability to ask questions and solve problems, which will in turn develop their reading, writing and mathematics. Food links every subject, and we’re excited to keep it at the core of our creative approach to education’.