University chef puts healthy eating on the menu for Staffordshire schoolchildren

"Hopefully by getting children engaged with food and excited about cooking from a young age will lead them to live healthier lifestyles in the future."

John Whittle, Executive Chef

A Staffordshire chef is working with more than 20 schools across the county to encourage children and families to lead healthier lifestyles.

John Whittle, Executive Chef at Staffordshire University, had an overwhelming response from the public when he launched a search for a local school to 'adopt' as part of national healthy eating scheme Adopt a School back in November.

John has committed to working with each school that contacted him, alongside his busy day job, and has spent the past two months visiting classrooms across the region to teach schoolchildren about healthy food and show them basic cooking skills. He has also been approached to work with several local and national healthy eating schemes.

John said: “As a Stokie I’m really passionate about the city and the wider region, which is my main motivation to do this. Stoke in particular has high levels of child obesity and I think educating people and changing attitudes can go a long way.”

Research by Staffordshire University psychologist Dr Rachel Povey has shown that some children worry about being teased by friends or siblings for eating fruit and vegetables and John believes that intervention at a young age can help to prevent this.

“Hopefully by getting children engaged with food and excited about cooking from a young age will lead them to live healthier lifestyles in the future. I'm also keen to get the message out there to families that healthy eating doesn't have to be expensive!”

John's school visits include sessions on the relationship between food and the senses, teaching children cutting skills by preparing a salad wrap and baking bread from scratch. The schools involved are also invited to have a healthy lunch onto campus cooked by John and his team.

The Willows Primary School in Penkhull was the first school to sign up to the scheme and last week a class of Year 3 pupils visited Brindley Foodcourt for a behind-the-scenes tour of the University's busiest kitchen.

Year 3 teacher Amanda Adlington said: “I think the children have been wowed by coming into the university kitchens. It's great because it brings to life what goes on behind the scenes and it has definitely inspired them - I think we might have some future chefs in the class!”

“We've also had lots of parents saying that the children have come home and talked all about what they've been learning from John. It’s brilliant that the kids have been so enthused that they've been taking this knowledge about healthy and sharing it with their families.”

During the visit, the school pupils also had chance to explore the campus by taking part in the All Stoked Up treasure hunt with student ambassadors, seeing the Law School’s mock law courts and hopping on board the Great Minds Bus. Future school visits will also see children get involved in sports activities at the University's Stanley Matthews Sports Centre.

He added: “The last few months has been a whirlwind but I'm loving it. The support from across the University and beyond has been fantastic so hopefully we’re on the way to making a real difference.”

 

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