All it's cooked up to be

7th September 2001 at 01:00
Jenny Jupe looks at how a supermarket chain rewards outstanding students

Nothing inspires a food technology student more than tackling the issues that concern health and well-being through practical food handling. The new Sainsbury's Food Awards scheme rewards thousands of UK students for achieving outstanding food preparation skills. The awards, endorsed by the Department for Education and Skills, are based on the QCA's national design and technology scheme of work.

The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) has welcomed the awards' emphasis on food preparation in food technology and home economics lessons. Roy Ballam, senior liaison officer at the BNF, refutes the notion that pupils no longer cook in class. A survey undertaken by BNF ("Cooking for Kids", Nutrition Bulletin, June 2000) reveals that more than 50 per cent of food technology lesson time for 11 to 14-year-olds is spent on practical food work. DATA's latest Annual Survey of Damp;T Provision in Schools corroborates this evidence, although it indicates that shorter lesson times are influencing the type of practical work that can be done.

The Food Awards focus on students learning to prepare and make healthy products. Mary Richmond, head of food technology at Connah's Quay High School, North Wales, was one of the first teachers to embark on the scheme, in October 2000. She says it was a relief that the scheme was designed to be taught as part of the formal curriculum: "The Awards were not just one more initiative to squeeze in." Her Year 7 students began work on one of the bronze briefs, "Soup and Salad". They made a range of soups which had sensory appeal and followed current healthy eating guidelines. "We had various versions of carrot and coriander, with Lauren introducing orange juice. We also had the chunky varieties, with Simon combining onion with potato, carrots and pasta in a chicken stock and Thomas's oriental delight included noodles, tomatoes, chicken stock, peppers, leeks and a trace of Thai curry paste." Pam Kelly, from Tolworth Girls' School in Surrey, has used the awards to underpin its achievement of the National Healthy Schools Standard (www.wiredforhealth.gov.ukhealthyhealsch.html). "It is hard for students to make healthier food choices if they don't understand about the importance of diet for maintaining good health. The Food Awards provide students with an opportunity to demonstrate that they understand the principles through making exciting new healthy dishes."

By visiting Sainsbury's Taste of Success website students can find out about roles and processes of product development, featuring one of its own children's food ranges.

Bryony King, food technology teacher at Mounts Bay School, Cornwall, used one of the supermarket's products as a basis for Year 10 GCSE work. Inspired by the concept of healthier children's food, students focused on one product area and developed innovative new ideas for fish-based dishes. Whether students are working at bronze, silver or gold level they must demonstrate effective planning and preparation, skilful food preparation, food safety and hygienic handling, and high-quality presentation and finishing of made products. Marking and recording forms are sent to DATA, which administers the scheme, and every student receives a personalised certificate, some achieving a merit award.

Last year television chef Jamie Oliver presented several awards at the Good Food Show, at the NEC in Birmingham, where more awards will be presented this December. Students who show outstanding practical achievement at any level can be nominated. Send names to Sam Carver at DATA, 16 Wellesbourne House, Walton Road, Wellesbourne, Warwickshire, CV35 9JB. Tel: 01789 473911. E-mail sam@data.org.uk by October 15.

A primary scheme is to be launched this autumn supporting the Government's Food in Schools programme. Awards will reward young cooks for outstanding work from one of the four QCA food units within the Damp;T scheme of work.

Details of the primary and the secondary schemes can be found at www.j-sainsbury.co.uktasteof success

Jenny Jupe is deputy chief executive, Design and Technology Association

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