West Sussex Alternative Provision College: Students love to get into the school canteen and cook their own meals

Students have been working in school canteens across West Sussex to help boost their culinary skills and learn about healthy, balanced choices for meals.

The Cook and Eat programme at West Sussex Alternative Provision College plays a vital role in teaching key life skills and many students are inspired to go on to work in hospitality.

Some have even gone on to start their own businesses, including former student Jordan Luxford, who opened a cafe in Worthing in 2020.

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During lockdown, he delivered hundreds of free meals to key workers and local charities while navigating the unpredictable business and economic landscape, having been open only six days before restrictions were announced.

West Sussex Alternative Provision College students enjoying their meal with teachers

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See the children who started school in the Worthing area in 2011

Doug Thomas, headteacher, said: “WSAPC’s Cook and Eat programme plays a vital role in ensuring all of our children and young people have a mastery of key life skills and are equipped with the tools they need to pursue healthy, active lifestyles.

“It’s been brilliant to see more of our young people make informed decisions about their nutrition and wellbeing, and we look forward to sampling more delicious creations.”

The programme is delivered in the fully-specified commercial kitchens at WSAPC’s seven sites in Lancing, Littlehampton, Worthing, Burgess Hill, Haywards Heath, Chichester and Crawley.

West Sussex Alternative Provision College students enjoying their meal with teachers

Students plan, prepare, cook and eat a wide range of meals, including traditional festive dishes at Christmas. They are involved in every aspect of the cooking process and encouraged to be adventurous.

Through learning about the fundamentals of nutrition, portion sizes and the journey from field to plate, the students are encouraged to opt for healthy, balanced choices for their menus.

Anna Vallone, Cook and Eat programme co-ordinator, said: “Although our Cook and Eat programme has formed a long-standing part of WSAPC’s core extracurricular offering, the initiative certainly went down a treat last term with students, particularly in the run up to Christmas.

“Not only does it offer a brilliant chance for Key Stage 4 pupils to gain an official BTEC accreditation and explore post-16 and future career pathways, but it also enables younger students to get a taste for the exciting world of cooking.

“With nearly half of our pupils eligible for free school meals, it’s vital that as a school community we work together to champion and signpost resources like Cook and Eat, which can make a real difference in tackling food poverty and its interconnected social, emotional and financial challenges.”

Students value Cook and Eat as a time to sit down and chat. It also ensures they can all have fresh, nutritious main meals to set them up for the day.

Those in year 10 and 11 can work towards a BTEC Level 1 and 2 qualification in home cooking skills, while younger children can gain internal accreditation.