Rhyl Kitchen Classroom: setting children on a path to more adventurous eating

Rhyl Kitchen Classroom: setting children on a path to more adventurous eating

Rhyl Kitchen Classroom: setting children on a path to more adventurous eating 1920 1280 Karishma Puri

Rhyl Kitchen Classroom is a one-of-a-kind community space for Camden residents of all ages to harness and share their passion for food. Built in the middle of a food growing garden, it takes a holistic approach to food by teaching every step of the way, from plot to plate. The kitchen classroom launched in October 2020 as a social enterprise, and aims to have a positive impact on health in the local community through teaching how to connect growing with cooking.

Founder Tom Moggach

Tom Moggach, a lifelong Camden resident, is the visionary and driving force for this project that has been 10 years in the making. Starting out as a chef, Tom trained as a teacher and has taught across schools in Camden. Tom has been at Rhyl Community Primary School for 10 years and is currently the Lead Teacher for Outdoor Learning and Food Education. “My whole adult life has been around teaching, training, and communicating,” he explains. “I write about food, I cook food, I used to work in restaurant kitchens when I was a young 16-year-old – everything I do revolves around food in some respect.”

From car park to community kitchen

Built in the former car park of Rhyl Community Primary School, converting the space into a food garden and then four years later, a commercially equipped kitchen, proved a long and difficult journey for Tom. Over the last six years £200,000 has been raised to turn this vision into a reality. The fundraising started with a sponsored bike ride to Paris, which has now grown into an annual event arriving at cities such as Amsterdam and Bruges. The goal was eventually reached through a complex jigsaw of funding, from grants to individual donations, a pop-up restaurant and more, which shows the extent of local buy-in for the project. 

In addition to raising funds, Tom turned his hand to all aspects of running the project. “I’ve become an expert in so many different subjects that I never thought I would learn about – everything from architecture and commercial kitchen design, to grant writing and kitchen flooring. Finally, we’ve fulfilled our dream, and we’re immensely proud,” he says.

“What the children gain from working here is they start to appreciate all those fantastic moments of wonder, around the natural environment,”

An asset for the students of Rhyl Primary School

Ultra-processed foods count for over half of total energy intake in the UK diet, and for people living in cities, the opportunities to connect with the ways in which food is grown, or where it comes from, are few and far between. 

For the children, this project brings lots of benefits. As part of their lessons, pupils graze their way around the garden, picking up the flavours and tastes of different plants – as well as learning plant names – before taking ingredients inside to cook with. From experience, Tom has found this environment helps set the children on a path to a more adventurous palate. “A child can be fussy at home, but in the garden they’re eating raw courgettes, flowers, and watching hoverflies. It blows their mind,” he says.

There is also an impact on waste reduction, as pupils learn to prize what they have grown, as well as gaining a better appreciation for the natural world around them. “What the children gain from working here is they start to appreciate all those fantastic moments of wonder around the natural environment – they start to tune into the weather, the wildlife, the colour,” Tom says.

For the community

From gardening together, to exchanging recipes and sharing freshly-cooked dishes, food has the ability to connect us to our neighbours. It’s obvious that Tom is passionate about this aspect, as he explains, “Food for me is a fantastic community tool, because everyone has opinions, but it’s not politicised. You can bring people together through food and through gardening in a way that’s very difficult through other activities, which might be contaminated by politics or prejudice, whereas everyone has a relationship to food and growing plants.”

Given the community focus of Rhyl Kitchen Classroom, they were well placed to support whenthe COVID-19 pandemic began. A group of volunteers would cook meals in the kitchen that was then distributed at Castlehaven food bank.

Because of pandemic restrictions, until recently, there was limited access to Rhyl Kitchen Classroom. As those restrictions have eased, the space has been hired out for events such as play schemes and corporate team building days. The aim is that this space is eventually used by a wide range of people for a variety of events, from workshops to children’s parties and even launching community food businesses. 

You can bring people together through food and through gardening in a way that’s very difficult through other activities”

Visit Rhyl Kitchen Classroom

Rhyl Kitchen Classroom is at the very start of building a really exciting and varied community programme  around this space, in hopes that everyone will find an event that they will want to tap into in the future. Go visit the space on an open day and let the team show you around or have a look at their Instagram for updates.

Photo credits: Karishma Puri

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