The Craft Guild of Chefs has joined forces with LACA (formerly Local Authority Caterers Association) to open up its successful Family Food Appreciation workshops to even more British schools.


The workshops, which see professional chefs going into schools to teach children and parents cooking skills, were launched in 2010, but, until now, have been independently run by the Guild.


By joining forces with LACA, the Guild has better access to schools and the support of a ‘trusted’ education catering body behind it, with six LACA member schools from different regions across England and Wales about to receive the first round of workshops under the new collaboration.


Lincoln Gardens Primary in Scunthorpe, Maendy Primary School in Cwmbran, Blossomfield Infant and Nursery School in Solihull, South Bromsgrove High School, Oasis Academy in Brightstowe and Jubilee High School in Surrey, have been selected to pilot the scheme in February and March.


The long term aim is to open up the workshops to as many schools as possible across Britain and, ultimately, win the fight against the rising problem of childhood obesity in the UK.


Mark Rigby, steering committee member on education for the Craft Guild and senior business development chef for Premier Foods, said: “Statistically, if a child is born into a family where both parents are obese, the odds of that child being obese is extremely high, and two or three generations now have not been educated in diet health and general life skills.


“Children can’t influence parents, so we said, let’s bring them together in an environment they feel comfortable in and get them cooking together. The idea is to capture criteria for developing a family bond through relevant food knowledge and preparing food that is time saving, cost effective and nutritionally balanced, covering basic food hygiene and kitchen equipment.


“Topically, we also show them ideas on how to reduce waste, from putting broccoli in water to keep it fresher and demonstrating how to use leftover bread, to explaining what you can cook and then freeze to improve shelf life and eating quality. Knowledge chefs know and can pass on.”


Anne Bull, LACA national chair, said: “LACA is pleased to be working alongside the Craft Guild of Chefs on this important initiative. The Guild’s Family Food Appreciation Workshops scheme has been a huge success since it was first introduced in 2010. School meal providers nationwide have been urging Government of the need to increase food education and cookery lessons in schools for years. Whilst that still remains a challenge, this partnership enables school food providers nationwide to harness the culinary skills, commitment and manpower of the Guild’s professional chefs to expand the knowledge and awareness of good food amongst young people and parents.”


She added that there had been several generations of parents now who had missed out on cookery education at school and as a result, their children were not familiar with many foods. “With the availability of fast food or prepared meals combined with a sedentary lifestyle, this makes for a generation of children at great risk from obesity and health issues in the future,” she said.


“Where schools and caterers have tried to educate children and young people about different foods and who have run cookery clubs, awareness of healthy eating has increased and better food choices are being made at lunch times.  This then, hopefully, extends beyond school as well. 


“LACA hopes that the partnership with the Guild flourishes so that we can expand the workshops to more schools and academies across the country. It is yet another way that LACA members can help encourage better eating, improve educational attainment and decrease levels of obesity.”


Mark said that the partnership opened doors to schools and academies in which LACA members provide catering services. “The schools have put their trust in LACA, which, in turn, has put its trust in us,” he said. “Through this relationship, we also hope to forge better links between school caterers and parents, so caterers can understand better what parents want and parents have a better understanding of what can be delivered.”


While the long term plan is to secure structured funding for the Family Food Appreciation workshops, the programme is currently reliant on private sponsorship. Companies involved must, however, bring ‘real’ benefits to the scheme, not just financial input.


All supplying ingredients for the workshops, this year’s sponsors are Bernard Matthews Foodservice, representing British turkey as a lean, protein-rich meat that is also cost effective for schools, Uncle Ben’s, which supplies quick to cook rice as a healthy staple, and Reynolds, which supplies the workshops with seasonal fruit and veg for an educational market stall. 


M&S Hospitality, desserts manufacturer Zuidam and Premier Foods are also this year’s sponsors and are very much involved in supporting and driving this activity.


Last year’s LACA ParentPay survey revealed that a staggering 95.9 percent of parents agreed with the statement, ‘My child should learn to cook at school’.