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Educazione Slow Food - educazione alimentare e del gusto

Lagan Integrated College, N. Ireland

We are What we Eat

In Belfast in Northern Ireland, the Lagan Integrated College has great ambitions to improve the food system of their school. Committed to their slogan “We are what we eat”, the school is taking a macro look at food in the school, reviewing many different aspects in a holistic way - from the standard of meals served to taste education and the appreciation of quality and nutritious foods, as well as waste management and other facets of food and the environment.

Yet the school faces many challenges “We’ve got a big job ahead of us, says parent and Slow Food convivium member Celia Spouncer, we have a difficult system here, with regards to regulations, etc.” Currently the school has a kitchen on site where some food preparation takes place but most of the food is prepared through a catering service off site and then transported to the school for the 1,200 students. “The food here is a bit uninspiring and boring and the atmosphere of the canteen is not great,” says student and youth movement member Orlagh Thompson.

An Inspiring Start

After returning from Salon del Gusto and Terra Madre in 2008, Orlagh Thompson was inspired to make some changes in the school’s food practices. She presented her experience to pupils from every class and suggested the idea of working on a school garden. Orlagh has also more recently arranged initial meetings between the school and Nick Price – a local chef and chair of Slow Food NE Ireland - to talk about the school canteen, cooking classes and other food issues. “We are still at the planning stage but we hope to create skill sharing events and to hold some local events to demonstrate how foods such as butter are made,” says Orlagh Thompson.

Nourishing Growing Bodies

Over the next year, Lagan College plans to work with the canteen staff to review the food in the school – the canteen environment, the information available to students about the menu, the opportunity for students to be involved in tasting a wider range of foods and asking the question about the impact of foods high in salt and sugar on taste and health – in order to make important changes.

The school will also take a proactive role in addressing general health issues with its students. Working with professionals and the Belfast Education Board, the school will create avenues for students to address some of their concerns with issues relating to diet, weight concerns, and mental and physical health.

Orchard Delights

The college is currently in the process of designing and rebuilding parts of the school and would like to take this opportunity to develop a hard and soft fruit orchard and a herb and vegetable garden, and generally make the school grounds a more engaging and educational landscape.

The National Trust, that owns the schools grounds, has offered to assist the school with its plans for the school grounds in accordance with their new policy on local food. These plans will be further developed with the help of parent, Celia Spouncer, also a landscape architect and Slow Food convivium member.

Celebrating Multiculturalism

Lagan College enjoys a rich cultural diversity with students from as many as 20 different nationalities. Through a series of in-school food markets and skill-sharing sessions, grandparents, parents, canteen staff, local chefs and producers will share and celebrate the diverse food culture that is such an important part of the school.

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