For many, fish on Friday used to mean frozen fish fingers and soggy chips. Under the Chefs in Schools initiative, pupils are more likely to be served up baked hake, delivered fresh from Brixham fish market the same morning.
Chefs in Schools launched in 2018 with the bold plan of improving the health of children and their food education, spreading the practices of one inspirational school kitchen. Gayhurst School in Hackney had recruited Nicole Pisani, ex-head Chef of Nopi, Soho and, over four years, Nicole’s team had reduced not only the amount of sugar, fat, salt and preservatives in school meals, but also, significantly, the cost per head. Crucially, the change in food was introduced to children through cooking classes, with pupils were helping to butcher chickens and fillet fish.
With other schools beating a path to Nicole’s door asking how they might emulate her results she turned to Henry Dimbleby (co-author of the 2013 School Food Olan commissioned by the DfE) and a Gayhurt parent. They conceived a plan to recruit restaurant chefs to run schools’ kitchens and to develop a tailored programme of staff training, improving hot lunches and a holistic cookery curriculum.
In the most deprived areas, one in three 11 year olds leaves primary education obese. Chefs in Schools show how they can counter this-adopting a whole school approach to food, where the catering team are valued and where children have the practical cooking skills and knowledge to keep themselves healthy.
Last year, the Fishmongers’ Company’s Charitable Trust awarded a major grant to assist with rolling out this programme through matched funding and, just one year in, over 9,000 children have already benefited. With more schools in the pipeline, this project offers the genuine prospect of improving health outcomes for thousands more children during the Fish mongers’ three-year funding cycle.
The generous multi-year grant from Fishmongers Company has been entirely literally transformational for Chefs in Schools. It allowed us to take what was an inspirational model, and spread that across the capital, leading to thousands of school children across London being taught about, and allowed to enjoy, nutritious and exciting, freshly prepared food. The match funding has allowed us to target our support where it is most needed, in schools where the pupil premium is more than double the national average, meaning our support can reach those who are most in need. As our founding funders, we could not be more grateful to Fishmongers for the belief they have showed in us and the opportunities they’ve afforded those school children. On behalf of myself, the team and 7,000+ school children, plus many more to come – thank you.Naomi Duncan, Chief Executive
For more information about Chefs in Schools, click here to visit their website.