School Food — creating a sense of adventure
I still remember sitting in the former HQ of the British Council at Spring Gardens, listening to a point a colleague was making about neglecting the so-called “fluffy” elements of international education.
Her school’s work, in a part of the UK with much diversity, many nationalities and communities, had developed a range of sophisticated global curriculum projects, with widespread recognition partially based on using global food and cuisine as a theme.
It engaged the students in the most remarkable way. Along with a number of other common unifiers that may be dismissed by some as “fluffy” — such as music, art and sport — these important elements of the curriculum have been at the heart of some incredible, sustainable global education. It was the projects on food and cuisine that had really stuck with me.
“The daily fare of school, the recesses and lunch, had been lost in all this planning and development.”
Establishing the very first independent international school in Moldova a few years ago, we built our world class campus, our systems and values. We focused on our international curriculum with Fieldwork Education’s IPC and Cambridge International for IGCSEs and A-levels. We also concentrated on the recruitment of teachers and students, especially international ones, as well as developing an outward facing culture through networks such as the British Council, Etwinning and COBIS.
But what we soon realised, is that the daily fare of school, the recesses and lunch — including school food — had been lost in all this planning and development.
Moldova, sandwiched (no pun intended) between the river Prut and Romania to the west, and the river Nistru and Ukraine to the east, produces incredible fruit, nuts, vegetables, wheat and its incredible wine from its very rich, fertile soil.
It is a national source of pride and being at the crossroads of Europe for much of its history, Latin, Ottoman and Slavic cultures have had a tremendous impact on the variety and cuisine of the country. This is also reflected in the high nutritional standards for children in school food, both in state and independent institutions.
Parent, staff and student feedback recognised the high quality of the school food but the demand was really clear, we needed to reflect our international identity more, especially with families, students and staff from all over the world in our community.
“I knew the impact of Fish and Chips Friday or Roast Dinner Wednesdays on learning in UK schools.”
We also wanted to harness the quality of food in Moldova and that local pride in organic produce, to our new menus and approach. This was also about the strong commitment we have as a school to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and how we want to live them and incorporate them into our daily practices.
The initial ideas, working with our head chef, Mrs Tatiana and her team, were to have a series of international food Fridays. Having been a principal and senior leader in schools in the UK for many years, I knew the impact and value of initiatives like “Fish and Chips” Friday or “Roast Dinner” Wednesdays on learning, engagement and community morale. The canteen is so central to school life, we ignore it at its peril in daily school.
We have celebrated international events for countries such as St George’s Day/Shakespeare’s birthday for England and the UK and one of our most popular events was to hold Thanksgiving lunch. So many students were fascinated with the American idea but had never experienced it before.
That is one of the reasons we have done this because it is an easy way, especially when we cannot travel as easily now, to bring the world into our canteen and allow our students to experience global society through food.
“We bring the world into our canteen and allow our students to experience global society through food.”
The students love the concept and we have seen the uptake of meals in the canteen and it allows the trickle into lessons. My American colleagues have had to explain to IGCSE history students some of the myths and realities behind US holiday events like Thanksgiving.
So, we are connecting classrooms with cuisines. Our Etwinning Greek partner school was very impressed with our Greek Friday and the UK Embassy in Chisinau fully supported our celebrations on the 23rd April. These were linked back into the classroom in lessons and project collaboration.
The next stage for us is “meat free Mondays” and the Cambridge Global Perspective iGCSE students are working with the canteen on reducing both food waste and food miles so our SDGS are a key part of daily school life.
One of the best moments of any day for me is to see my colleagues and students sitting together in the canteen as an international school in Moldova, breaking bread or a naan or a tortilla, and watching a real international school community continue to grow and develop.