The Grain Chain

UN International Day of Friendship: 30 July
July 14th, 2011

Information sheets from

The United Nations, as part of its Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, has designated 30 July as the International Day of Friendship.

The UN recognises the importance and value of friendships.  Friendships, between individuals, countries, organisations, and cultures can inspire peace, transcend differences and provide opportunities to grow. has a handout on special days for families and friends which investigates how celebrations for individuals vary across cultures from Saints Days in Italy to Mother’s and Father’s Days.

The end of term might be an ideal opportunity to reaffirm the friendships between your students before the long summer break.  Why not get them making cards or cooking fairy cakes to share.

Energy balance and healthy eating
July 8th, 2011

Lesson plans, teaching resources and a fun game

One-in-eight parents thinks that their children are fat – and most of them confess to being part of the problem; by giving them foods high is sugar and/or fat.  Half of them would also like to do more exercise with their children but cited lack of time as an issue, a study revealed yesterday.

Parents and schools can help with a whole-family or whole-school approach. has developed a number of teaching resources looking at getting the right balance of food to match lifestyle of each individual. 

You can teach your class how to measure their activity using pedometers (which are available from as little as £2 each) and using the Eat Well plate they can design their own healthy balanced menu.

We have lesson plans, activity sheets and complimentary resources on energy balance and healthy eating for both the 7-11 and the 11-14 age groups. Follow the links below to download them.  They are all free of charge and there is no registration necessary.

7-11 Lesson plans
7-11 Classroom resources

11-14 Lesson plans
11-14 Classroom resources

Also available is a fun, end of year activity – The Energenie Energy Trail.  An online interactive board game where children play individually rolling the dice, answering questions, avoiding forfeits and getting round the board.  You can play here.

Pasta is the world’s favourite food
June 17th, 2011

Pasta, in all its shapes and sizes, is loved the world over and can now call itself the world’s favourite food. In a global survey by Oxfam, pasta has overtaken other staples such as meat and rice to be the most widely eaten food as it soars in popularity in countries such as Brazil and South Africa.

Italy remains the number one producer and consumer of pasta.

Each region of Italy has its own variations and specialities. The most popular shapes are conchiglie (shells) and farfalle (bow ties).

By Italian law, all pasta made there must use durum wheat. This wheat is different to the wheat grown to make bread flour; having a higher gluten content and typically being more golden in colour hence the yellowy colour of pasta. has a whole section on the science of baking. Aimed at 11-14 year olds this section aims to uncover the science behind the remarkable natural processes involved in making bread rise including the role that gluten plays.

You may also like to indulge in the world’s favourite foodstuff and get cooking. We have a quick, simple, tasty and nutritious recipe for tuna pasta bake that should feed a group of four.

Drought declaration in East of England may reduce crop yields
June 10th, 2011

A drought will be declared later today (Friday 9 June) in parts of the East Midlands and East Anglia.  The Government says that certain parts of the surrounding areas are experiencing their driest spring conditions since 1990.

The Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, will hold a ‘drought summit’ today involving farmers, water companies, the Met Office, and business and environmental groups to review the impacts of the weather and discuss strategies.

Farmers in the Fens have offered to irrigate crops at night which would reduce evaporation thereby using less water.

The National Farmers’ Union says the drought could reduce yields of wheat and barley in affected areas by up to 20 per cent; but added that this was unlikey to change food prices as these are determined globally. has a number of complementary resources to this story.  They are all free of charge, easy to download and mostly available in an editable format.  Why not explore with your students how their food is grown; how farmers manage productivity today with sustainability tomorrow; the contribution farming makes to the economy; and the UK wheat market.  Housed within two sections on sustainable development, these resources are written for 11-14 and 14-16 age ranges. 

Also, for the 14-16 age group we have developed a podcast where teenager Katie explores food prices and food shortages.

The best things in life really are free
June 3rd, 2011

A recent survey of more than 2,000 people across the UK found that the simple things in life really are the best.  Laughter was rated the most important pleasure – and it doesn’t cost a penny.  Sharing great food with good friends closely followed with 21 per cent of people describing it as their favourite pleasure.

Here at we aim to please.  Our site is full of easy-to-follow, easy-to-cook and great-to-share recipes for all occassions.  From breakfast and brunch items such as pancakes and summer berry compote; perfect party food including cheese straws and fairy cakes, main meals like the sensational spicy bean burger with coleslaw and delicious desserts like sweet choux buns also offer a range of curriculum linked, free resources which aim to teach children where their food comes from, the nutritional value of grain-based food and the skills required to cook with them. 

Resources are linked to the curriculum in all areas of the UK; and are easily accessible by both subject (geography, design & technology, and science, mathematics etc) and by age range.  Take a look today!

World Environment Day: Sunday 5 June 2011
May 27th, 2011

Welcome to your quick guide to celebrating World Environment Day (WED) on 5 June, 2011.

This year, WED supports the UN’s International Year of Forests with the theme, Forests: Nature at Your Service, which underscores the many essential life-sustaining values that forests provide and the intrinsic link between our quality of life and the health of forest ecosystems.

For all seven billion of us, our present and our future depend on conserving and restoring the world’s forests. On WED, why not resolve to do more to ensure that we continue to enjoy the important services that forests provide, in our generation and the next.

On the site you will find a section aimed at 14-16 year olds, but which can be adapted for other ages, focusing on all aspects of wheat farming including sustainable development, the use of pesticides and a case study of a real life farm.  Also relevant is a podcast on ‘food and values’ which investigates factors influencing consumers in the food choices they make.

Eating breakfast helps weight maintenance
May 26th, 2011

An article published in Obesity journal found that eating breakfast reduces food cravings, while those that skip breakfast can end up snacking and overeating, especially at night.

Currently it is thought that as many as six out of 10 adolescents skip breakfast; so researchers at the University of Missouri conducted a three-week study of a group of teenagers who usually skip breakfast.  One group continued to miss breakfast while the other group now consumed a 500-calorie breakfast containing cereal and milk.  At the end of each week volunteers completed a questionnaire and underwent a brain scan. 

Finding show that those who ate breakfast felt fuller and less hungry throughout the day than breakfast skippers.  Brain scans show that breakfast eaters experienced less activity in the areas responsible for controlling food motivation and reward. has several related resources for various age groups.  For 7-11 and 11-14 year olds we have complete sections on balancing energy input with energy output which also includes a section to design ones own breakfast.

Healthy active lifestyle with
May 19th, 2011

Ahead of their Annual Shareholder Meeting, McDonalds have faced pressure from campaigners to stop advertising to children.

Hundreds of healthcare professionals have signed an open letter written by campaign group Corporate Accountability International, stating

“Our community is devoted to caring for sick children and preventing illness through public education … But our efforts cannot compete with the hundreds of millions of dollars you spend each year directly marketing to kids.”

McDonalds says it promotes important messages to children on safety, literacy and balanced active lifestyles as well as providing a diverse menu with healthier options available.

For more information on healthy balanced lifestyles visit  It boasts two sections on energy balance both bursting with lesson plans, activity sheets and information pages.  Designed for ages 7-11 and 11-14.

Rainfall and wheat crops
May 13th, 2011

While most of us are enjoying the glorious temperate weather, farmers are hoping for rain; and lots of it.  Trade magazine The Grocer warned: “Supplies of British fruit and vegetables, as well as grains, such as wheat, could come under serious pressure if the dry spell continues.”

Learn more about the growing cycle of wheat including an investigation of  average monthly rainfall and sunshine throughout the year via’s Farming Our Food activity sheet.  It was designed for 7-11 year olds though with a word version available it can be easily adapted to suit younger or older children also.

The best thing since sliced bread?
May 12th, 2011

20110512 SandwichAn article in today’s Times (The best thing that’s ever happened to sliced bread, Thursday 12 May 2011) investigates a great British invention: the sandwich.  Rumoured to have been invented in 1762 when the 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, wanted a meal that he could eat during his card game and requested sliced beef in between pieces of toast.

I was brought up in a world full of pre-packaged sandwiches and it seems incredulous that it is just 30 years since the first one hit the shelves at Marks and Spencers.  Salmon and tomato apparently, swiftly followed by the now-retro prawn mayonnaise in 1981. offers lots of resources and recipes for bread and flour.  Take a look at our section on Where bread comes from to find out how wheat from the fields get transformed into loaves of bread; or be inspired by some of our tasty lunchtime recipes.  Try pitta pockets or tuna or ham & cheese wraps.