A CORK principal has become the classroom’s answer to Jamie Oliver after transforming school runs into a dream with his quirky cooking demonstrations.
Inspirational Ken Foley from Scoil Padre Pio primary school wanted to ensure that parents felt supported in their mission to adopt healthy eating habits at home.
The school is currently benefitting from the Hot Schools Meals programme-an initiative rolled out by the government to offer regular, nutritious meals for all children.
Meanwhile, Mr Foley’s cooking demonstrations take place in the school every Wednesday morning for parents on the school run. Each session covers a different meal of the day from lunchtime to dinner dishes. Parents even get to leave with “party bags” containing some of the ingredients featured in the demonstration.
This is not the first time Mr Foley has shown remarkable initiative. Last month he single-handedly baked all 252 pupils pancakes to mark Pancake Tuesday. The impressive gesture was started several years ago and has become something of a tradition in the school.
Staff at Scoil Padre Pio are now hoping to highlight Mr Foley’s inventive recipes on a social media page known as Ken’s kitchen.
A qualified chef, Mr Foley has become an advocate for healthy eating in schools and in recent months welcomed the extension of the Hot Schools Meals programme to all Deis primary schools. The measure was introduced in Ireland earlier this year to tackle cost of living struggles.
Mr Foley opened up about his passion for cooking and healthy eating.
“I took a career break in 1998 to train in Ballymaloe Cooking School. Cooking was such a big passion of mine so it was something I really wanted to get out of my system. My hope is to get children away from processed food. This is something that can be really difficult for parents so I’d like to support them in whatever way I can.” He stressed that adopting healthier eating habits will be a battle for many families.
“Children will eat when they’re hungry. They may walk away from dishes and we won’t win every battle but the important thing is to stick at it. It can be hard to put up with waste but children will often come around to trying new things with enough perseverance. Little changes like replacing sugary cereals in the morning with an alternative can make a world of difference.” He hopes the demonstrations can provide more cost-effective options for families.
“Meat and fish is very expensive so I try to encourage people to do as much freezing as they possibly can. The use of Tupperware is very important because it saves people in the long run. It’s also amazing what you can pass on to your children.” The educator is keen to provide as much support to families as possible.
“The demonstrations are only for people who feel they might benefit from the support. We have a kind of working partnership with parents. The children are with us for so much of the day so we feel like this is a shared responsibility. It’s partly our duty to support the children’s health and give them happy memories and any way we can assist families in doing this is our privilege.” Ken is always open to suggestions from parents and includes recipes and cooking methods based on feedback from parents attending his cooking events.
“I always ask if there is anything in particular that parents would like to see. Next week it’s going to be dinners.” He is urging people not to be so hard on themselves.
“Parents are doing their best and although it can be disappointing at times when children resist healthy meals this is not something that’s going to happen overnight.” He described a typical cooking demonstration.
“I’ll normally make about three or four meals in front of the parents. The demonstrations only take an hour and it’s given us all something to look forward to.” Details about how people can follow Mr Foley’s healthy eating mission on social media will be released in the coming weeks.