Written by Tanya Arnold, HAF Club Supervisor.

The Health and Food (HAF) programme is designed to support children in disadvantaged areas to gain knowledge and understanding of why it is important to be active and eat healthily.

At Ryelands Primary and Nursery School, we decided to run the programme for four weeks during the summer holidays, with places offered to children entitled to Free School Meals, aged four to seven. Even though the City Council offered to arrange a healthy packed lunch for the children, we at Ryelands thought we could give our children a more fun and educational ‘hands on’ experience, creating their own healthy nutritional meals.  We wanted them to gain a deeper understanding of where some of our foods come from and how easy and fun it can be to make a meal.

After discussions with the children, we started off by introducing new fruits so the children could make their own fruit kebabs. Also, we walked to the school orchard where the children picked their own apples and pears for snack times.

We bought fresh vegetables and, using herbs from the Nursery Garden, the children made a home-made soup – the children found it to be much more fun than just buying a tin! For most of the children it went down a treat; they were very proud of themselves, telling their parents and carers about how they’d done everything from peeling the vegetables to blitzing them.

We had many, many interesting conversations about food throughout the HAF club. When the children told us that their favourite food was burger and chips from a local drive-through, we discussed with the children how this could be home-made and how it would be a much healthier option and obviously much more fun. They couldn’t quite believe it!  The children loved being involved in the process of making their own alternative burgers with sweet potato fries; the lengthy discussion and their questions were amazing.

During the four-week program the children made various dishes including pizza, Chinese curry, a healthy afternoon tea and even their own flavoured water (once again using mint from the nursery garden). Alongside the cooking we made sure ‘active activities’ were also introduced – the children loved the variety of activities on offer, all of which were accessible and sustainable. All the children took home a cook booklet with the recipes that we had made, and to say the children were super excited to try their favourite recipes at home was an understatement!

By the end of the programme all the children had taken part in cooking their own meals and some of the children went from trying nothing to eating EVERYTHING!  From discussions and talks during our time with the children and their families, they now have a deeper understanding and knowledge of how making our own meals is healthier, cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

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