We interviewed the inspirational Gia de Picciotto, founder of The Edible Garden London Project, for independent schools in London. Gia is passionate about healthy fresh food; her goal is to implement the Edible School Garden is as many schools as possible. Gia lives in London with her husband and two sons.
What’s the most important thing we should be teaching our children about a healthy start to the school year?
I believe we must encourage our children to make healthy choices by showing them that whole food, real foods, that do not come out of plastic packages, can taste good and make you feel good. These foods boost brain function and don’t allow for energy crashes so they can stay focused in school.
What sorts of foods do you grow in your ‘Edible School Gardens’? Do you still grow in the winter months?
The Edible School Gardens grow a variety of vegetables and fruits based, in most cases, on what the children decided they would like. We ended the school year with spring peas, lettuces, kale, vine tomatoes, strawberries and will begin this term with plums, apples, chard an array of root veg. Yum!
How do we steer our children away from the sugary, processed snacks and show them that there are healthier alternatives?
The Edible School Garden project is one way of engaging children who might not otherwise be aware that there are healthier alternatives that are delicious. Recently, we’ve done taste testing in the school gardens, and kids went home begging their parents for bags of organic apples! My other suggestion is to steer clear of buying sugary, processed foods and snacks. Keep easily accessible, nourishing foods and snacks around all the time. Trust me, if the junk is not there, our children will not miss it and they’ll be reaching for veg sticks and hummus instead.
What’s your favourite packed lunch to prepare for your children?
My children have school lunch this year, which has improved dramatically. Through consultation with the school caterers, and a headmistress who has tended to the garden all year, the meals incorporate the harvest as well as some ESG recipes. If I were packing lunch, it would be a high protein + fresh fruit and veg lunch box. My boys requests used to be: Stir fry with brown rice in a thermos or pasta (ideally kamut or quinoa) with meat and tomato sauce. Veg sticks and a pot of hummus for snack. A piece of fresh fruit for something sweet and a homemade cookie or muffin as a treat once in a while.
What snacks do you give them after a long day at school?
Brightly coloured cruditÃ© and dips are a big one in our house. We vary from hummus, to roasted red pepper to aubergine dips. Smoothies, if we didn’t have one for breakfast, are another big hit. I often dump my leftover green juice from the morning with a frozen banana, almond milk and a spoon of almond or peanut butter in the blender.
What do you pack in their sports bag for after school sport snacks?
This is a tough one! Nutrient dense grab and go snacks are increasingly coming to market but unfortunately most of our favorites contain nuts and while my kids and I love them fan for their powerful, protein packed fuel, schools are nut free zones. I usually give them their favourite Rebel Kitchen Mylks with a banana or a few dates.
If there is one thing you could teach children today, what would that be?
That what we put into our bodies affects the way we feel and perform.
The Edible Garden London program for Independent Schools is simple to implement. Please contact Gia de Picciotto if you’d like to get up and running in your school.