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Food and Ingredients News

Celebrity chefs could do more to reduce food waste

A new study has revealed that the cookery styles encouraged by high profile chefs are unlikely to reduce the nation’s huge amount of food waste generated by British households.

Dr David Evans, a member of the University of Manchester’s Sustainable Consumption Institute, claims that the desire to eat a wide range of meals coupled with the drive to prepare more dishes from scratch can result in more food waste.

Dr Evans studied nineteen Manchester households during the course of eight months in an attempt to understand why the nation throws away over eight million tonnes of food waste each year.

Dr Evans watched people prepare, cook and shop for food and also asked them to discuss the contents of their cupboards, fridges and freezers. He claims that whilst consumers are often blamed for lacking the ability to cook or not caring enough about wasting food, he found nothing in his study to support this view.

The research suggests that people don’t generally need cookery courses but do sometimes find it hard to make use of leftovers. This is particularly true when the family contains are fussy eaters who often prefer established recipes to more improvised meals.

Dr Evans argues that the current volumes of household food waste should be considered as the result of people negotiating the contradictory and complex demands of everyday life. He believes that the pressure from celebrity chefs to eat and cook in certain ways inevitably leads to a greater risk of food waste.

Most food advocated by celebrity chefs is perishable and therefore should be eaten fairly quickly. Our unpredictable leisure schedules and working hours make it more difficult to make best use of the food in our cupboards and fridges.

Dr Evans believes that those with influence including celebrity chefs should recognize the issues and consider how to make it desirable or at least socially acceptable for people to use frozen vegetables or eat the same dish for several consecutive nights.

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Young Carers Benefit From Cookery Courses

Young carers from the South Tyneside region have spent the summer holidays acquiring valuable skills at cookery courses arranged by the Cooking for Life project.

Young carers are often required to take on many of the roles traditionally played by parents. These can included completing the weekly shop and preparing meals for the entire family.

Shopping and planning meals on a tight budget can be very challenging so the cooking courses offered to members of South Tyneside’s Young Carers Scheme have been really helpful.

In addition to teaching the youngsters how to cook, the cookery courses also focused on explaining how to use the kitchen equipment, the importance of a balanced diet and also how to stay safe.

Interaction with the group and social skills were also an important aspect of the project. The youngsters were able to relax with friends and enjoy the meal that they had helped to prepare.

Members of the Cooking for Life project have been working with youngsters in the area for the last ten years. A spokeswoman for the project, Joyce Greely explained that the North-East is unfortunately one of the least healthy places in the UK, with rates of cancer, diabetes and heart disease rapidly increasing.

By the time that they leave home, many young people lack basic food knowledge and are unable to prepare simple balanced meals themselves. Many fail to recognise the importance of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Without additional help, this lack of basic skills and unhealthy lifestyle is likely to be passed onto their children. It is for this reason that the Cooking for Life project was established. It aims to teach young people and their families how to prepare great tasting meals that are also cheap, healthy and nourishing.

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Parents chose junk food in search of an easy life

According to a recent survey, eighty per cent of children are given unhealthy food such as chocolate and crisps in their lunchboxes.

The study, by children’s food expert Annabel Karmel, also found that around seventy per cent of children prefer fruit to unhealthy snacks such as sweets, biscuits and fizzy drinks. The three most popular snacks amongst children were crisps, cheese and fruit.

Twenty per cent of parents admitted to giving their children sugary breakfast cereals rather than more healthy alternatives such as wholegrain cereal or porridge.

Ms Karmel explained that whilst most parents begin the day with good intentions, during busy periods they may choose the easy option and give their children food which is unhealthy.

Almost fifty per cent of the one thousand parents questioned demonstrated that they are health conscious by using tactics such as hiding vegetables in their children’s pasta dishes.

Other tactics employed by parents include; offering vegetables in the form of finger food, offering vegetables in a puree form and bribery with a sweet snack as a reward.

According to the study, children’s least popular vegetables are mushrooms, spinach and broccoli.

Around fifty percent of children claimed that spaghetti bolognese is their favourite dish although this differed between regions. Only thirty two per cent in the North-East claimed it was their favourite compared to fifty two per cent of children in the South East.

Twenty five per cent of children in the United Kingdom are classed as either overweight or obese. This represents the highest rate in Europe and Government figures suggest that the problem will get worse. It is expected that by 2025, forty per cent of people in Britain will be obese.

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Healthier School Dinners Linked To Improved Results

Delegates at a recent London conference celebrated the success of a project that has demonstrated the link between healthy school dinners, improved behaviour and academic achievement.

The Food For Life Partnership (FFLP) project was established to help promote healthier food for schoolchildren and also to connect them with the environment and the source of that food. So far the project has helped to transform almost 4,000 schools that have taken part.

One of the project’s greatest supporters is celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. He has been really encouraged by its success and believes that the evidence demonstrates what the best teachers already knew – that school meals and food education don’t just influence children’s health, it also aids concentrated and success at school.

The conference, which was jointly hosted by the Faculty of Public Health and the FFLP, heard evidence from an impartial evaluation by Cardiff University and the University of the West of England.

This demonstrated that;

  • The number of primary schools receiving an outstanding Ofsted rating more than doubled following their participation in the FFLP project. Head teachers also reported a beneficial impact on the attention, attainment and behaviour of pupils.
  • The proportion of children eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day increased following participation in the project. In addition, almost fifty percent of parents reported that family was eating more sustainable and healthier food.
  • The take-up of free school meals increased by thirteen percent in participating schools.
  • Almost seventy percent of school inspectors felt that the project had helped to support pupil’s wellbeing and personal development.

A spokeswoman for the FFLP explained that these findings prove that the project is not only helping to improve the diet of schoolchildren but it is also having a positive effect on attainment and behaviour.

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Study Suggests That Most Packed Lunches Are Unsafe

A team of researchers who inspected over seven hundred lunch boxes discovered that the majority of their contents posed a possible health hazard.

Scientists in America visited a number of pre –school childcare providers on three separate occasions, checking the temperature of hundreds of different yoghurts, sandwiches and other perishable foods.

They were surprised to discover that 99 percent of diary produce, 99 percent of vegetables and 97 percent of meats were kept at temperatures that were unsafe.

Despite the fact that 12 percent of lunches were stored in fridges and almost half contained an ice pack, only 22 out of 1,361 were judged to be at a safe temperature.

The report is the first of its kind to assess the condition of packed lunches ninety minutes before lunchtime. Harmful bacteria such as salmonella, staphylococcus aureus and E.coli, multiply when the temperature is between 40f – 140f.

It is recommended that any food which is kept within this temperature range for two hours or more should not be eaten. The mean temperature of the food that was examined was 64f – well within the so called ‘danger zone’.

A spokesman for the British Food Standards Agency explained that they don’t have specific guidelines for children’s packed lunches. Instead they urged the public to use their common sense and keep food chilled until it is required.

The researchers found little to suggest that either teachers or parents were taking the simplest precautions, such as making sure that meals were refrigerated as soon as the child arrives at school.

The researchers also recommended that parents should not use insulated bags as this can prevent them from cooling. They also suggested that water and juices could be frozen to help them stay fresh and chill other food.

It has been estimated that around one million people contract food poisoning in Britain every year. Of these 20,000 require treatment in hospital whilst 500 die.

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Cooking Courses News

West Yorkshire School Hosts Cookery Courses

Students at Todmorden High School in West Yorkshire learnt about sustainable growing, food production and also attended cookery courses at a recent ‘Food for Life’ day.

The event was designed to teach students about a number of different issues relating to food in support of the schools aim to achieve a Food for Life Partnership gold award.

Those pupils that attended the cooking courses learnt how to press apples, how to make delicious homemade bread and how to prepare fantastic summer smoothies.

The high school’s catering manager, who demonstrated to the students how to prepare fresh pasta, explained that this was the second such event that the school has hosted. He also explained that the aim was to help students make the right food choices by explaining where it comes from, how it’s grown and how we cook it.

The event was also supported by local producer Staups Lea Farm. Staff from the farm attended with a number of animals.

The day included activities in a variety of different subjects.

Geography students studied the food sustainability in various different countries whilst mathematics students spent time looking into nutritional analysis.

History classes studied the way in which food production has evolved over a number of years while art students were given a food based design task.

Organisers acknowledged that the day had been a great success and were quick to thank the students and staff who were involved.

The school continues to work hard to achieve its aim of a gold award. It is currently investigating organic produce and plans to add organic options to its lunchtime menu.

For more information of the Food for Life scheme please visit http://www.foodforlife.org.uk/