Today’s Solutions: May 19, 2022

Nicole Pisani was once a head chef at one of London’s most trendy restaurants but gave it up to become a school chef at a community school in Hackney.

“The reason I fell in love with food was to see people enjoy it and to feel like you’re connecting with someone because you’ve cooked for them,” she explains. “But the longer you spend in restaurants, the less of that good feeling you get.”

After spending several years as a school chef, Pisani was ready to launch a new project and partnered with Naomi Duncan to start Chefs in Schools, a charity with a mission to improve school meals while empowering children by teaching them how to cook.

Founded three years ago, the organization guides schools that want to revamp their kitchens so that they can offer students more nutritious meals. They are also about to expand by adding a school chefs’ qualification that includes a training course that covers aspects like portion size, how to efficiently run a team, and how to monitor food waste. “The aim is to give school chefs more pride, show how important the role is, and for people to feel invested in cooking,” Pisani explains.

Now, Chefs in Schools has placed trained chefs in 44 schools (most of them situated in socially deprived areas) across the UK, effectively educating and feeding 16,000 children a day.

“Cooking with children is what I love most,” says Pisani. “You turn into a five-year-old yourself. It’s hard not to be happy.”

Chefs in Schools has also partnered with the Leap Federation to set up the Hackney School of Food last March. This school is designed to teach classes of schoolchildren and adults of any age to cook healthy and tasty meals.

According to Thomas Walker, head food educator at the school, one of the main focuses of the classes is to educate students about nature and the origins of their food. “It’s this ‘seed to spoon, soil to mouth’ idea,” he says. “Meaning, we’ll pick something with the kids, prepare it, and eat it, it’s as fresh as you can get. I want them to realize that what we put into the soil feeds the plants, and they, in turn, feed us and give us energy.”

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