Adopt a School chef delivers food education sessions to young people at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital’s new adolescent mental health unit

Publish Date: July 10, 2019 Posted By: Alys Bannister

The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts’ Adopt a School Trust is delighted to announce their new partnership with Chelsea Community Hospital School and Chelsea and Westminster’s new Lavender Walk Adolescent Mental Health Unit. Through the newly-formed partnership, Adopt a School London and South East Chef Lecturer, Ashley Marsh, has been delivering a series of food education sessions to the young people attending the hospital school at Lavender Walk. The sessions have focused on topics such as healthy eating and nutrition, food provenance and identification, knife skills, hygiene and food safety, as well as practical cooking activities. The young people’s first session, which took place in early May, encouraged the students to explore food using their five senses and five tastes. Following sessions have seen the young people make dishes such as a black quinoa salad, an asparagus, mushroom, and thyme risotto, and a cauliflower, asparagus, and salmon tart. All of the sessions teach the students how to handle a knife safely, basic food hygiene and safety knowledge, and how to use various food preparation techniques.

When asked about his experience delivering Adopt a School sessions at Lavender Walk, Chef Ashley Marsh responded “it really does give me great pleasure in seeing the young people open up and feel relaxed with what we’re doing. These sessions are delivered to individuals who have faced difficulty in life and if we can help take away that feeling from them for any period of time, or even help them on their way to recovery, then that’s all I can ask for.”

The partnership between Adopt a School and Lavender Walk was developed following a recommendation from John Sosna, a teacher at the new hospital unit who first experienced Adopt a School sessions when working at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital School. John recommended The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts programme to the teachers and staff at Lavender Walk as he had seen over many years how effective it was in helping to enrich and enliven the curriculum in his previous post. John particularly remembered the “beaming faces and total engagement of children and young people when working with the support and direction of some of the most remarkable chefs in the business.”

Adopt a School also delivers monthly sessions to children at Great Ormond Street Hospital School and Evelina’s Children’s Hospital. As well as delivering sessions at the hospital school, chef Ashley Marsh also works with children on the dialysis ward. Working with the hospital dieticians, he helps the children who are on restricted diets to create their own book of personalised recipes using their favourite ingredients. Adopt a School has previously worked with a number of hospitals across the UK, including Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.

Lavender Walk is a new dedicated unit at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital for young people aged 13-18 with mental health difficulties. The centre offers inpatient care for up to twelve young people and a day programme for four people. Headteacher of Chelsea Community Hospital School, Janette Steel OBE, said “we are thrilled to be working with the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts in the Adopt a School programme. Having regular visiting chefs, experts in their field, attend the Lavender Walk Unit to help enthuse, inspire and educate our young people will greatly enhance their well-being and provide for better outcomes on discharge.”

Chef Ashley Marsh will continue to deliver monthly Adopt a School food education sessions to students at Lavender Walk over the next year. Both Adopt a School and Lavender Walk Adolescent Mental Health Unit are excited to embark on this new partnership and witness its impact on the students participating in the sessions.

Chef Ashley Marsh's work is generously sponsored by the University of West London (UWL),  where Ashley works half of his week working as Chef Lecturer in Advanced Skills.