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Toast for good health

Lauren Rathbone introduces Best Food Forward, which aims to provide good food education for all. 

Bake to the future. Copyright: The School of Artisan Food

Bake to the future. Copyright: The School of Artisan Food

Run by The School of Artisan Food, Best Food Forward takes an evidence-based approach to teaching about good food in an engaging, exciting and valuable way. Led by a registered dietitian, we’ve designed a programme for healthcare professionals, and another for secondary school food teachers and their students.

Bake to school

In the face of alarming statistics about obesity and type 2 diabetes among adolescents, we set out to empower schoolchildren to make healthier choices by providing both theoretical and practical knowledge. Having well-equipped training rooms, we are able to combine theory with hands-on practical sessions.

Since its foundation in 2009, The School of Artisan Food has been teaching baking and we feel that the magic of combining flour, water, salt and yeast to produce Real Bread is a fantastic way to engage and inspire students. A favourite is a super-simple focaccia, which is great for handling the dough, watching it develop, putting it in to bake and then tucking into it as part of our shared lunch.

Baking together means that almost every subject can be covered whilst enjoying the creativity, messiness and sheer wonder of producing Real Bread. We look at growing the raw materials, biodiversity, soil condition, supply chains, chemistry, additives, labelling, nutrients, industrial versus artisan techniques, environmental impact, food access, health considerations and (importantly) flavour.

We are now providing practical sessions and useful lesson materials, which are aligned with wider health statutory guidance, to eight local secondary schools. We offer each school several day-long sessions at The School of Artisan Food. Real Bread always features, with things like wholemeal buns and concha being made by young learners. This equates to over 1,600 students learning about core food competencies, which will support not only their own and their families’ wellbeing but is also designed to inspire future careers in food.

It’s been fun eavesdropping on students during our sessions. Comments we’ve overheard include: “This was soooo fun.” “Can we come here every day for school instead?” “WOW, it's like Christmas!”

Peer to peer learning

For many reasons, surgeries and schools are stretched to the limit and so, if framed collaboratively and helpfully, support from the Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise (VSCE) sectors is welcomed. This takes many hours of development, but our work with healthcare professionals has now evolved into accredited continuing professional development (CPD) sessions. These enable participants to share with each other challenges they’ve experienced around introducing healthy eating and good food knowledge into their clinical practice, all while cooking and baking together. 

Feedback has been very encouraging. Dr. Phil O'Neill, GP Educator for South Yorkshire Primary Care Workforce and Training Hub, wrote: “From start to finish the day was engaging, informative and really good fun. The excellent design of the course encouraged teamwork, discussion and networking, which has contributed to lasting relationships with those who attended. I have also felt more confident discussing food in the clinic since the course and find it much easier giving simple, practical advice that can make a big difference to my patients.”

Looking ahead

Best Food Forward is working to build a national community committed to food education and its potential to drive positive change. Two researchers recently joined our team to undertake a mapping project. They are asking secondary schools all over England about their food education experience so that we can get a broader overview of what teachers and students want and need. As the project continues to grow, we have come across some very impressive initiatives supporting the good food movement. We welcome opportunities for learning, collaboration and partnership in this important field.


Originally published in True Loaf magazine issue 57, January 2024.

Lauren is in the Real Bread Campaign lineup for The Theatre of Food at Latitude Festival 2024.

See also

Bake Your Lawn

Published Monday 13 May 2024

Real Bread Campaign: The Real Bread Campaign finds and shares ways to make bread better for us, better for our communities and better for the planet. Whether your interest is local food, community-focussed small enterprises, honest labelling, therapeutic baking, or simply tasty toast, everyone is invited to become a Campaign supporter.

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