A new Slow Food project to bring healthy and local food into school canteens and provide taste and food education for students is being launched at the Belarusian School in Riga, Latvia – one of the eight European schools participating in the project.
Belarusians constitute the third largest ethnic group in Latvia, but the vast majority of students attend Russian schools. This makes our participating school in Riga quite unique for the country. The school was founded help of the Latvian Belarusian “Svitanak” Association in 1995 and it aims at teaching Belarusian language, culture, literature, music, history and traditions through a nine-year program. The student body consists of 100 pupils and is made up of a mix of native Belarusian speakers, students whose grandparents are Belarusian, and also students who have no Belarusian ties.
The school brings an experienced contribution to the European project as it already has been using food as a fun and entertaining tool to teach students about the historical importance of gastronomic tradition in a country. Students are involved every year in Christmas festivities in partnership with the Belarusian Society of Latvia, Belarusian Independence Day celebrations, Mother’s Day activities and a Traditional Pancake Sale in the spring.
The ”Slow Food European School Canteen Network” will offer schools the opportunity to carry out similar projects and events related to food in a way that sparks children’s interest in their families history and traditions. The Belarusian School in Riga will share some tips for organizing such initiatives with the rest of the school network offering also insight on how these social activities help to build the local community.
Slow Food European School Canteen Network
The Slow Food European School Canteen project is currently being launched in eight schools from seven countries: Bulgaria, Belgium, France, Italy, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Latvia. The schools share common goals to improve the quality of the school meal services and encourage knowledge and understanding about food, how it tastes and where it comes from. Project activities include: Taste Education activities using Slow Food’s sensory education kit; a school day dedicated to fresh fruits and vegetables; the introduction of local dishes into the school menu and starting to source food from local producers and Terra Madre food communities.
One of Slow Food’s key missions is to promote quality daily food that has a positive impact on the lifestyle and health of individuals and communities. Canteens – in schools, work places and hospitals – should be places of conviviality. Daily food projects aiming to improve canteens are an important challenge for a better quality of life for a large part of the population. Taste education in the early years of life contributes to the creation of a child’s sensory memory while defining tastes and habits and making them become more aware of their food choices.