A Bristol food writer has used a city school to launch a nationwide campaign to enable young people to cook five healthy meals before leaving home. Kate Percy, a mother of three, ran a pilot scheme at Merchant’s Academy in Withywood and two London schools before rolling it out to schools nationwide in September.
Kate says the goal of #Cook5withKatePercy is to “revolutionize next-generation health”. With the simple concept of the Power of Five (five recipes, five nutritional tips, five key qualifications), she wants to give young people a basis for lifelong enjoyment of cooking.
After an initial gathering for 11-12 year olds at Merchants’ Academy where the course was introduced, every 7th grader signed up. From a selection of 20 recipes reflecting different ethnicities and cultures, the children made banana pancakes with oatmeal, clam pasta with tomato sauce, risi e bisi (rice and peas), chicken fajitas and “healthy” burgers.
READ MORE: Pop-up barbershop featuring locally sourced cider slushies
Kate says: “At the beginning of the course, many students had never cooked before. However, after five sessions, they had acquired key skills such as peeling and chopping an onion and cooking rice and pasta.
“Also, they had gained an understanding of macro and micronutrients, what this means in relation to food and what makes for a healthy, balanced meal. I was also impressed by how open each child was to trying new flavors and foods that they had never tried before.”
Kate says last week’s session went particularly well. Parents and siblings were invited and to the surprise of the school there was a large turnout.
READ MORE: Bristol’s legendary glassboat restaurant is up for sale after 36 years
Students have also started using their cooking skills at home, introducing healthy eating habits into the family. Part of the campaign is to provide young people with a foundation to make healthier food and lifestyle choices and gain the skills and confidence to enjoy cooking for the rest of their lives.
As well as years 7 at Merchants’ Academy in Withywood, Kate directs pilots in London at Fulham Cross Academy with years 7 and 8 and Southfield’s Academy with sixths.
Sam Williamson, Director of Merchants’ Academy said: “I am delighted that we have had the opportunity to work with Kate, who pilots her Cook 5 with the Kate Percy initiative. Kate’s positivity and energy are contagious and our youngsters have loved cooking family recipes from scratch with her.
“Equipping our young people with the essential skills they need to live healthy and happy lives has never been more important and is just as important to us at Merchants’ Academy. More of this, please, Kate!”
Diet-related diseases are taking a huge toll on the nation’s health and finances, especially since the pandemic. About 40% of 10-year-olds are either overweight or obese.
According to a recent study, one in four Britons can only cook three recipes themselves. The addictive relationship to processed and ultra-processed foods, as well as a movement away from “breaking bread” together at the table as a family, has meant that over 50% of our nation’s diet is now processed or ultra-processed, causing problems with the gut health, mental well-being and weight control.
#Cook5withKatePercy addresses this issue by making cooking bite-sized and accessible with the Power of 5 concept. Students invite someone to share their meal with for the final session.
“Please don’t write these kids off,” says Kate. “Kids pick up cooking skills super fast and understand the basics of nutrition. You just need the opportunity.
“A lot of the amazing seventh graders at Merchants’ Academy had never cooked before. After five sessions, they cut vegetables like professional chefs! It’s amazing to see how willing they are to try new foods and flavors when involved in the preparation and cooking.
“We’re not talking about cupcakes and cookies either, #Cook5WithKatePercy is about empowering and inspiring young people to cook real food; daily meals to support a healthy lifestyle. It’s something that we’ve refined over many years in many different types of schools.”
In its ‘Leveling up’ white paper, the government has committed £5m to start a ‘school cooking revolution’. One of the initiatives is that every child leaving secondary school knows at least six basic recipes that support healthy living later in life.
Kate says: “We are passionate about nutrition education. As a mother of three, active lifestyle promoter and entrepreneur, I discovered how better dietary choices completely transformed my feelings and my family after we changed our diet to support my husband’s marathon training.
“It inspired me to write my first bestselling cookbook, Go Faster Food, and to help others discover that magical connection between what you eat, good energy, vitality, and happiness. I call that ‘Enerjoy’.”
Visit katepercys.com for more information on #Cook5withKatePercy
READ MORE: Big names lined up for South West’s biggest beauty event
READ MORE: Caravan Shop is still going strong 45 years after its ‘heyday’
READ MORE: The roadside pub with pornstar martinis and must-try roasts