Happy healthy children and families – happy healthy planet

Kitchen Coordinator Nirmal at Felix Road Adventure Playground

Emily Fifield, Community Project Manager at Eastside Community Trust, writes our latest blog post. Emily describes how food is at the heart of the work of Felix Road Adventure Playground and the steps the team have been taking to make meals there as nutritious, sustainable and fun as they can be!

At Felix Road Adventure Playground, everyone knows the importance of food in bringing people together and giving kids the energy they need to play and grow. The past few months have given us a chance to step back and spend some time thinking about how we source our food, what we serve and how we share it.

We’ve taken the key values that have always been at the heart of what we do – our secret ingredients – and written them into a food policy to be used across Eastside Community Trust’s activities and sites. Now that kids and families are back at Felix Road, we’re getting a chance to put those words into practice in a number of different ways. With many families still struggling to access healthy, nourishing food, our first priority is making sure all children who come to the playground are able to have a nutritious hot meal if they want one. Starting as a temporary lockdown measure, we are continuing to offer free meals for all children at after-school play sessions in term time and during school holidays, no questions asked. Affordable meals on a pay-what-you-can scheme are also available for parents. A new partnership with neighbour-run Family Food Action will help us continue to provide these meals with weekly contributions of fresh produce and other ingredients.

As one of the community partners on the citywide Community Climate Action Project, we’ve also been thinking more about the things we can do to support the health and wellbeing of our children, families and community, and the health of our planet. Some of the things that Nirmal (our Kitchen Coordinator) and the rest of the team have been trying at the kitchen since we reopened in April include:

  • Working with local resident and nutritionist Sabah Bakali to develop a seasonal menu that incorporates flavours from the different food cultures of our community, familiar ingredients with new, and creative ways of sneaking a few more wholegrains, fruits and veg into each dish.
  • Offering a vegetarian or vegan meal at every session, with halal meat and fish options also available once a week. For some kids the shift away from eating meat at every meal has been an adjustment, but Nirmal’s homemade daal and other staples are steadily winning new fans.

Looking through notes from kids left in the feedback box, Nirmal feels the general verdict is positive with comments like:

“You must’ve borrowed god’s recipe for the lasagne”

“I’m not a vegetarian I like meat but it was great!!! 8/10 Thx for the food”

One of the keys to getting kids on board with these changes has been giving them the opportunity to try new foods and flavours, with Nirmal serving up small portions as a taster and encouraging them to just give it a little taste and see if they like it.

In addition to the tasters for new foods, Nirmal has begun serving up smaller portions with the option to come back for seconds, meaning that everyone gets enough and less food is wasted. As Nirmal explains it to the kids, “When we throw away our food, the bin’s eating the food – it’s waste. We want to feed kids’ tummies, not the bins!”

Other steps we have taken include installing a water refill station serving lower sugar drinks like squash from pitchers, which reduces waste from plastic bottles and other single-use containers. Plus, returning to using reusable mugs, plates, cuts and cutlery. This means that less plastic is produced and sent to landfill and less litter on the playground, keeping it beautiful and clean.

We have lots planned for the year ahead including vegetarian cooking classes with Nirmal, a mini allotment on site and aspirations to grow more of our own food each year.

Stay tuned, or come round for a meal!

The playground is open after school during term time Monday to Thursday 3.30 to 5.30pm, Friday 3.30 to 5.30pm (Felix Girls, women and girls only) and Sunday 1 to 5pm. During holidays we are open Monday to Thursday 12 to 5.30pm, Friday 3.30 to 5.30pm (Felix Girls) and Sunday 1 to 5pm.

By setting the wheels in motion now, together we can transform the future of food in our city, building in resilience over the next decade. So, what change do you want to see happen that will transform food in Bristol by 2030? Do you already have an idea for how Bristol can make this happen? Join the conversation now.

All images © Evoke Pictures Lifestyle Photography

Our Partners & Sponsors