A new Slow Food project to bring healthy and local food to school canteens and provide taste and food education for students is being launched on the island of Ireland. Two schools were chosen: one in Clare, Republic of Ireland, and the second in Belfast, Northern Ireland. They are two of the eight schools participating in this project all around Europe.
Orla Thompson, the student delegate that participated in Terra Madre 2008 (www.terramadre.org), started the project in Northern Ireland. She was inspired by the work of Slow Food during the event, and she decided to deliver a presentation once back to her school. She spoke out to 1,200 pupils at The Lagan College in Belfast and then she organized a meeting with Slow Food N.E. Ireland to draw up a Slow Food project for the 2009-2010 academic year. The college is off to a good start thanks to its active Eco Committee that has been working to transform the school into an ‘Eco Friendly’ zone since 2002. Furthermore the campus is situated on extensive land owned by the National Trust, a charity that protects natural flora in Northern Ireland and the U.K. As a part of the European project, Lagan College will be working to promote eco-gastronomy amongst the students and plans to introduce in the canteen menu produce from the orchard and the raspberry bed planted on the school grounds.
The second project is carried out at the Mary Immaculate Secondary School in the beautiful Burren Region of North Clare in the Republic of Ireland. This school has 250 pupils and 20 teachers, but how it is a custom in the region, there are no canteens or catering facilities on site. All food consumed during the school day is either purchased or brought from home. The local supermarket, which is directly across from the school, is the most popular lunchtime choice for students. At present younger students can buy vouchers to buy food in local shops. The main issue is on how students can be encouraged to purchase local and healthy foods. During the 2009-2010 project, the school will evaluate this issue and examine if the voucher system can be adapted to improve students daily food choices.
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.