School kitchens and allotments

After thoughts and discussions around catering and nutrition within school environments, we decided to bring the catering function of one of our schools ‘in house’.  Several years ago we employed a professional chef, and we always insist on fresh food, cooked from scratch and only prepared at the last minute.

You would think that preparing food fresh for the exact time the children were going to eat was obvious, however our previous external provider would prepare and cook all the food ready for 10.30, when children were not eating until 12pm onwards! So we simply had to change that immediately!

As part of the kitchen and food development, we realised that our pupils needed to understand where food came from, how it grew and the process from seed to plate.

So we employed a gardener and gave over a small area of the school grounds to creating a small allotment.  An exciting project has turned into a huge venture over the years with investment ensuring the allotment houses a greenhouse and a big pond (complete with fish, frogs and subsequently following the life cycle of the tadpoles).  There are now many raised growing beds, including one just for fresh herbs that are used in the daily meals.  There are also many fruit cages, potato beds, rhubarb patches.  The gardener works with the chef at the beginning of each year, to plan the vegetable and salad beds for the year.  We try to grow a full complement of plants to enable the children to try new flavours and textures.

Throughout the growing season pupils are involved at every stage from sowing the seeds, potting on and harvesting the produce throughout to taste testing different dishes and recommending meals for lunches that week.

This has now grown into gardening clubs and has also been instrumental where some pupils have needed an outlet for their frustrations and a different way of learning and social interaction. Pupil wellbeing is of paramount importance to everyone of Excelsiors schools and this has been a tremendous way we can support pupils with their mental health.

We share the photos of the harvesting on our websites and twitter and the absolute joy on the faces of some the children is a joy to see.  Many of our families are now asking for cuttings and advice to start growing their own at home!

If you would like advice for your school of how to create an allotment and start your own garden to kitchen project, get in touch, l.davies@excelsiormat.org