Our community interest company The Ridge has been running the Plenty Project since December 2016, in and around Dunbar in East Lothian.
A series of classes that take in budgeting, nutrition and basic cooking skills were initially offered for adults, and continue to be.
In May this year we were approached by the headteacher of nearby West Barns Primary School to deliver a version of our programme to each year-group of pupils, and in October P 6/7 took part in the first week of classes.
The Plenty Project is funded by SCVO, and in this instance we have been able to fund the teaching and ingredients for the project.
To overcome the lack of on-site cooking facilities, the school won a grant from Education Scotland to buy a mobile kitchen (comprised of oven and two induction hobs) and the necessary equipment to get the classes off the ground.
The focus of the nutrition class was the importance of a varied, balanced diet, with emphasis on encouraging a willingness to try new foods, and keeping an open mind about likes and dislikes.
We explored international school lunches and snacks to illustrate the huge global variations in what is considered ‘normal’ food, and shared seaweed crisps.
In a tasting session the class were proud to win a perfect score of every pupil trying fruit and vegetables including beetroot, celeriac, passion fruit, fennel, pomegranate, cauliflower and watermelon (against the initial inclinations of many!).
This was the first of many moments throughout the week that children discovered they enjoyed a food that they’d previously refused, and sparked noisy discussions about taste, preferences and eating habits.
Recipes were devised to engage, enthuse and challenge the pupils into trying new foods, as well as to be simple, healthy and affordable. At the beginning of each cooking class the children pulled a task out of a bag to make sure that everyone was included.
The menu for the week took in potato latkes (tying in with recent learning about Judaism), coleslaw, cheesy bannocks, butter bean dip, smoked mackerel pate, filo baskets with fresh apple yoghurt and cherry sauce, quiche muffins and vegetable tart with kale pesto. We arranged a visit to Belhaven Community Garden where the children harvested fruit and vegetables for our ingredients, which also included surplus produce donated by local greengrocer The Crunchy Carrot.
Each course will coincide with an end-of-term event in the school’s calendar, in this case the Harvest Assembly. Pupils read out an account of their Plenty Project week to pupils and parents, before every child in the school was given some bannock, mackerel pate, butter bean dip and quiche muffin to try.
The remainder was then offered to parents, with many giving enthusiastic feedback about their child’s reaction to the classes and asking for copies of recipes (which were distributed to every child).
The content will, of course, be tailored to the ages of each class, but the basic outline will remain the same.
By the end of the year, every child in the school will have had an immersive week getting thoughtful and creative around food, with the chance to show off their work to the rest of the school.