Grace’s mission to get kids passionate about good food

GRACE Phillip has been feeding Islington residents for the last 22 years.

The 50-year-old delivered meals on wheels during her 17 years at social services and has been the council’s school dinners chief for the past five.

Her mission is to get the borough’s children eating healthily – and excited about good food.

She said: “We’re really trying to encourage them to enjoy their mealtimes.

“We’ve helped lots of the schools to create a nice environment in the dining hall. We want to teach children about how important eating is socially and prepare them to be healthy for life.”

Ms Phillip, Islington Council’s schools catering manager, recently oversaw the launch of free lunches for all children in nurseries and primary schools across the borough.

She said: “Before we started the scheme, 62 per cent of children ate schools meals – now it’s over 80 per cent. Hopefully, that figure can get even better.

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“We’re still trying to get the remaining parents to take up the option. The parents have to register and some just don’t know about it.”

All Islington’s nurseries and primary schools joined the scheme in March this year, after a successful trial across six schools that started in September 2009.

Grace says small things such as throwing out the old aeroplane-style dishes, with the pudding and main meal together in one tray, can make a real difference.

“Kids used to eat the pudding first,” she said. “So something simple like getting rid of those flight trays helps to teach them about food courses.

“The kids have got individual bowls and plates and even table cloths now so they can have a proper dining experience.”

“There are purple, green, red and yellow plates – and some schools have crockery that matches their uniform.”

Grace says her passion for food stems from her childhood in Grenada.

She said: “I grew up with food in the Caribbean. We didn’t have school meals – we just had lovely fresh food every day. We grew a lot of stuff ourselves. My family were food lovers.”

Now she is enjoying trying to spread that passion across Islington’s schools.

She added: “It’s very gratifying to see the children tucking into this lovely healthy food.

“And I think it stays with them – everybody remembers their school meals! Hopefully these children will remember theirs for the right reasons.”