The Chron looks at a project which aims to inspire youngsters to take more interest in healthy eating and cookery

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“I WANT to chop the tomato,” said one little boy. “No I do,” said another.

A lengthy debate ensued about who should be allowed to the chop the last tomato in the bowl, before another little hand shot out and started to chop the much-coveted tomato.

Children, it seems, love to chop vegetables, I discovered when I visited a Cookathon at Moulton Primary School on Thursday.

They also really enjoy cooking.

However, the event which aimed to get 56,000 people all over the country all taking part in community cooking events, is part of a drive to tackle the fact that not enough children do learn to cook, or eat healthily.

At Moulton, where 540 people manned chopping boards and frying pans to make a healthy spicy chicken fajita, there is plenty of work going on to try and address this.

And much of it comes down to the efforts of the school’s catering manager Angela Stacey, who in addition to organising the event which saw 17 kilos of chicken being served up, also runs a weekly cooking club.

“We signed up to get funding from the Let’s Get Cooking fund, which aims to get children cooking and eating healthily and to set up one of the clubs.

“I think because more parents work now, and we are so busy these days, that families don’t cook together as much any more, and they eat more convenience food.

“A lot of children who have a cooked meal here at lunchtime may not get a cooked meal at home.

“I think there is a danger that people will forget how to cook and I think it’s important to make sure that children have basic cooking skills and learn how to make healthy tasty food.

“A healthy meal doesn’t have to take long to cook. The meal we picked for the Cookathon can be cooked in half-an-hour.

“It is not just about cooking a fresh healthy meal.

“Cooking is a way of spending more time together as a family. Meal times are when you talk to each other about your day and sit down as a family together.”

Angela organised the Cookathon and invited various members of the community from fire fighters to local businesses and suppliers. The school has been running a cooking club for two-and-a-half years.

“We have Let’s Get Cooking every Thursday.

“I always ask what they would like to cook at the beginning of a six-week session and we try to cook as many as possible.

“You do get a lot requests for cakes and brownies, and we can’t do all of them.

“We also try and cook food from a lot of different cultures, like we have done Thai chicken curry and Asian dishes, and naan and chapatis.”

“We have had some children say ‘I don’t like soup’ or ‘I don’t eat curry’ and then you say ‘well have you ever made it before?’.

“When they get involved in making something and then actually taste it, and realise it tastes good. It makes a big difference.

“We always pick recipes that show cooking can be quick and easy and we hope they try them at home with their families.”

Deana Job, from Moulton, mum to Olivia Job aged nine, regularly helps out at the Cooking Club, she said: “I do a lot of cooking at home and I always cook from fresh.

“I think it’s really important to teach children about fresh ingredients because we all benefit from eating healthily.

“The cooking club has been really good for the school because some children don’t cook at home at all, so it shows them how enjoyable it can be.”

“I love cooking and I have passed that on to my seven-year-old. I think it’s an important life skill for her to have, and it is something that should be passed on to all children,” added Annette McAuley-Allen, mum to eight-year-old Calista, who also helped out at the Cookathon dressed as a pea.

Teachers also believe it has brought a new dimension to learning.

Peter Sturgess, headteacher, at Moulton Primary School said: “I think having the cooking club at the school has helped bring an extra element to learning.

“It gives children a chance to shine in something different, which is not academic.”

In Northamptonshire around 10 schools took part in the national Cookathon event.

“Those who got the most people across their community taking part, got the chance to win part of a £5,000 prize pot.

“There are 423 children in school and every single one of them helped to cook a meal by the end of the day,” said Angela.

“We gave out the recipe for everyone to take home with them. I don’t know how many have gone home and cooked it but I’m sure some of them have.

“So we see it as a big success.”

Rob Rees, chairman of the School Food Trust and chef, said: “Since its launch five years ago, Let’s Get Cooking has helped more than 1.7 million people improve their cooking skills.

“I’m a big supporter of the Big Cookathon . . . it’s a fantastic way to promote healthy eating, teach important healthy cooking skills and it gets children and adults cooking together.

“Last year 45,000 people took part; this year we had more than 56,000. To increase the number of participants by 11,000 in just 12 months is a testament to the impact being made by Let’s Get Cooking clubs all over the country.

“Congratulations to all those who joined the challenge at Moulton Primary School Primary School – I hope it was as much fun taking part as I bet it was eating the final products.”

What the kids thought of the Big Cookathon

Rebecca Willoughby, aged nine: “This is the first time I have cooked anything and it has been really fun. It might make me more interested in helping my mum and dad in future.”

Trinity Yates, aged 10: “I go to cooking club and it’s amazing. I have made smoothies and pies and all sorts.

“I do a lot of cooking at home with my dad. He lets me help and cook with him.

“I always enjoy it. It has been fun cooking with lots of people.”

Bethany Jones, aged 10: “I go to cooking club every Thursday and I cook with my mum at home. It is a nice thing to do as a family.”

Conor Price, aged, 10: “I haven’t done much cooking before. I don’t really help at home.

“It was definitely loads of fun though and even though it was healthy it tasted really nice.”

Jade Macquire, aged 9: “It was good that we all got a go at doing something to help and we all got to take part.

“I have helped a little bit at home before but I think I might do more in the future.”

Harvey Forman-Murphy, aged nine: “It was really great when we got to put things in the pan and they sizzled loads and all this smoke came up. It was cool.”

Megan Mobbs, aged 9: “I have gone to cooking club and we have made spaghetti and pizza and lots of stuff. It is good because when you are older you will be able to make food for yourself and there will be lots of things you can make.”

LET’S Get Cooking is a national project that gives adults and children the confidence, skills and knowledge to make healthy food choices and cook good food.

It provides training, resources and support to help a wide range of organisations set-up healthy cooking programmes. 

It is delivering a five-year programme, supported by a £20 million grant from the Big Lottery Fund, which has established a national network of school-based healthy cooking clubs.

It is led by the Children’s Food Trust with the School Food Trust.

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