The Grain Chain

Archive for the ‘News’ Category

UN International Day of Friendship: 30 July

Thursday, 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

Friday, 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

Friday, 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

Friday, 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.

World Environment Day: Sunday 5 June 2011

Friday, 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.

Healthy active lifestyle with

Thursday, 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.

The best thing since sliced bread?

Thursday, 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.

Global warming blamed for rising food prices

Friday, May 6th, 2011

An article in the Guardian on Friday 6 May highlighted a new study, published in the journal Science, which reported that rising temperatures are responsible for reduced crop yields of all major producer nations between 1980 and 2008. has developed a podcast looking at various factors, including supply and demand, that influence the cost of the food on our supermarket shelves.  The podcast can be accessed here.

Bake your own Christmas decorations!

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

salt doughPrimary school activity

Christmas is coming and we know how excited your class will be getting! So instead of making paper decorations, why not bake them?

Salt dough is easy to make and non-toxic – plus it doesn’t taste very nice so younger children won’t want to eat it! When baked, it sets really hard and its high salt content prevents the dough from going mouldy.

Our basic recipe for salt dough, which can be baked either in an oven or hardened in a microwave for speed, can be found below. Because it involves using hot water, we recommend you make the dough before the lesson.

  • 4 cups of flour
  • One cup of table salt
  • One cup of hot water

Simply mix all of the ingredients in a bowl to form a dough. You’ll find that this recipe makes around 10 medium sized decorations.

If using a microwave, cook for two minute intervals, checking after each interval has been finished to ensure the dough doesn’t burn. If using an oven, bake for two hours on 250 degrees. Note that this temperature needs to be reduced slightly if using a fan oven.

Once hardened, leave the decorations to cool.

To colour the decorations you can either add colourings to the dough before it is baked or they can easily be painted once they have cooled. You could then add glitter, sequins or beads to add a bit of Christmas sparkle.

Encouraging your class to shape the decorations themselves enables them to be more creative but you could always use some festive cookie cutters if you are short on time. Some ideas for decorations could include snowmen, Christmas trees, stars, snowflakes and presents but you could always opt for more traditional symbols of Christmas.

Remember to make holes in all of the decorations so that they can be hung on a tree or around the classroom!

Activities for older students

There are only so many cold turkey sandwiches you can eat before you get fed up with them! Why not plan a lesson based around using up leftovers during the festive season? You could give students a choice of five of our recipes and ask them to pick two to modify. The only rule is that they have to use leftovers from a Christmas (or roast) dinner. We reckon the following recipes would be good choices for this activity, but as our regular readers will know, we have loads of recipes on our database so feel free to take your pick!

Tuna wrap – examples of modifications could include turkey and cranberry, or sausage meat and caramelised red onion.

Mini meatballs in tomato sauce – students could substitute the minced beef for minced leftover turkey and blend leftover vegetables into the tomato sauce.

Crispy leek and cheese sausages – these could be made using leftover vegetables.

 Apple muffins – the apple in this recipe could be swapped for fresh cranberries and candied orange peel could also be added.

Dinner rolls – these could be served with “Christmas dinner soup”, a soup made with all of the leftover vegetable.
Fun classroom gamesenergenie

 If you are winding down for Christmas, why not try some of our games and fun quizzes? Children won’t even realise they are learning!

 For 5 to 7 year olds: Fun Quiz

 For 7 to 11 year olds: Energenie Game (we love this one in the office- the best thing since sliced bread!)

 For 11 to 14 year olds: Fun quiz

 For 14 to 16 year olds: It’s not a game or a quiz as such but our podcasts are not too taxing for students and will provide some food for thought.

More free resources for our readers!

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Smiley Wheat Character Aug10Take your class on a Taste Adventure

As our regular blog readers will know, we’ve teamed up with Slow Food UK to offer children across the country the chance to take part in a fantastic Taste Adventure. Children set off on a journey across five different activity stations, each with an activity aimed at engaging one of the five senses. After taking part in The Taste Adventure, students should have a greater understanding of the following:

    how to appreciate food using each sense individually

    how each sense affects the others

    the basic elements of taste

    the difference between taste and flavour

The Grain Chain team will be at the BBC Good Food show in Birmingham on Sunday 28 November, so if you live nearby, why not pop along and say hello?

The Taste Adventure can be carried out in schools and is completely free! If you are interested, take a look at

Top tips – lesson ideas

Have you checked out our additional worksheets, courtesy of Licence to Cook? Learn about everything from how grain is grown, harvested and milled to the role of the ingredients in bread there will be something for everyone. Furthermore, each worksheet is set up in a Microsoft Word format, enabling you to adapt them to best suit your class.

Have you got a class full of teenage chatterboxes? Tap into their love of talking by looking at sensory vocabulary to describe foods. By sensory vocabulary, you may want to point out that you mean “proper” words such as “tasty” rather than “sick” (for those of you who don’t know, this bizarrely means “really good”). Encourage them to talk about the smell, taste, texture and appearance of different bread and other foodstuffs rather than last night’s episode of Hollyoaks. See our sensory vocabulary poster which you can use to start your lesson.

National Curry Week curry

Did you know that this week is National Curry Week?

National Curry Week was established in 1998 to raise money for those struck by poverty and malnutrition in South Asia. Restaurants all over the country are raising money by selling special dishes and raffle tickets and asking customers to add just one pound to their bills, which is exactly the amount that half of the world’s population lives off per day. They are also running competitions like “Currybard of the Year“ (for the best curry-related poem), the Samosa Speed Record (for the most samosas prepared in 10 minutes) and the World Poppadom Tower Challenge! This year, money raised through National Curry Week activities will be going to the Pakistan Flood Disaster Appeal.

Why not raise awareness amongst your students and teach them to make a delicious, home-made version of the Nation’s favourite food? Our Rogan Josh recipe uses oil (try vegetable oil to get additional benefits) rather than ghee, which means it is therefore lower in saturated fat than most takeaways. Surprise students with our recipe for naan bread – which is made with yoghurt! Or have a go at making our chapattis- the perfect accompaniment to an Indian meal.

Don’t forget…

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