Since the inception of Christchurch Food Festival twenty years ago competitions and projects have been organised in the town’s secondary schools. It is now 12 years since the Christchurch Food Festival Education Trust started to create cookery days in primary schools. Once again the team is visiting year 5 pupils and some year 4’s Christchurch primary schools and will cook with around 1000 children over a ten-day period, which stretches from January to the end of March.

Often described by teachers as the highlight of the school year, the two-hour sessions cover the origins of food, cooking techniques and nutrition. Organiser CFFET trustee Mary Reader explains, “ I am pleased to say that although the Food Festival is now being run by a commercial company Real Food Festivals, the sessions will continue, as we have received half of the residue of the old Community Interest Company funds, which was run by volunteers. Real Food Festivals have also committed to pay 20% of their profits into our funds.”

Mary goes on to explain “this year we are again working with Waitrose who are supplying most of the food and also their Healthy Eating Advisor Di Thomas, who was able to gain funding from the John Lewis Foundation. We also have another placement student from Bournemouth University Nutrition Department, Lucy Joy who is studying for her Master’s degree. They have helped us to put together an interactive nutrition presentation which makes the children aware of the benefits of certain foods for various organs in the body and a session where the children assess the amount of sugar in well-known foods. Each child is also being given a workbook of information and recipes to take home.”

The children also learn lots of cooking techniques and take part in ‘hands-on’ cookery sessions which are taught by chefs Ian Hewitt, Susan Spooner and supported by Katya Benedetto and former cookery teacher Gilly Bennet. Recipes this year are a Moroccan Chick-Pea and Aubergine casserole, which is ideal for children on a vegan or vegetarian diet, Mediterranean Fish stew, Breakfast omelette and a Mexican Salad.

Mary says “ The sessions allow children to get used to handling foods as many of them spend so much time on screens these days. We always ask the children what they have tasted and found that they do like and even the fussy eaters will usually try the food that they have cooked themselves! ”

Pic no P1020795 shows chef Susan Spooner with some of the children and Pic no. P1020791 shows chef Ian Hewitt cooking with the children