Businesswoman Dorian Chan tells Diane Parkes about her mission to get Birmingham’s schoolchildren eating and cooking healthy food.
Dorian Chan came to a conclusion as she watched children eat in her restaurants – most are nowhere near adventurous enough.
So she decided to do something about it and the result was a series of 90-minute workshops that aim to teach young people about fresh ingredients, eating a balanced diet and how to cook.
Dorian, vice-chairwoman of the Wing Wah chain, said: “I realised from seeing children eating in the restaurant that they are not always adventurous with food.
“I wanted to encourage them to try something different and learn about fresh and interesting ingredients.
“These courses aim to introduce them to new foods in a fun way and to say to them that eating the same foods every day is boring.
“We are not just trying to teach them about food but, by giving them the chance to have a go at chopping or cooking, we are also aiming to encourage them to enjoy cooking.
“The children enjoy it and the teachers say they have been very useful,” she added.
“These last few weeks have been a pilot study. Now we will assess how we feel they have gone and look at maybe doing something nationally.”
The workshops have been held initially for pupils at the Heartlands High School and nearby primary schools, though there are plans to hold similar events for other schools.
Dorian joined forces with Heart of England Primary Care Trust and Heartlands High to get the initiative off the ground.
Heartland High community manager Rachel Buckingham is impressed.
“It is all about building partnerships between schools and the local community,” she said.
“We have started by bringing pupils here and then Dorian has helped with a cooking programme in school in which the pupils looked at foods from all the different communities.
“It is about looking for alternative opportunities for education beyond the classroom.”
Making sure the children take home the healthy eating message has been the job of Kieron Riley, school nutritionist, funded by Heart of Birmingham PCT.
“The aim is to get children involved in the preparation of food,” he said.
“And at the same time they are learning the nutritional value of what they are eating. Being out of school and in another environment creates a sense of excitement and encourages the children to enjoy the activity.
“Hopefully what they are learning here will then continue when they leave.”
The event is aiming to supplement work already being done in schools on the subject of healthy lifestyle.
“It is a drip drip effect,” added Kieron. “If children keep hearing the same messages, you hope that it will gradually alter their behaviour.”
And the healthy eating message has certainly hit home with the pupils.
“I have learned that foods which are healthy can be tasty even if you think they won’t be,” said 11-year-old Alex Jeffers. “Things full of peas and carrots can still be tasty and if you eat them you will be healthy.”
Classmate Tremarni Coleman, also 11, agreed. “We participated in chopping and preparing the food and then we were able to eat it,” she added.
“We learned all about Chinese food and we also learned some Chinese words.
“The foods that we made and ate were Buddha’s delight and chicken chow mein.
“When I tried the Buddha’s delight it was quite fresh and tasted very good but I prefer chow mein.
“But it shows that food can still taste nice even if it is healthy.”
Class teacher Sarah Page said that the children enjoyed the experience of learning in a different environment.
“It has been really good for them as they have been looking at a balanced diet and that is something they have been covering in science,” she said.