Food: Word of mouth - Meals on wheels

Caroline Stacey hits the road with mobile cookery teacher Anita Cormac

Something's cooking in the Waitrose car park. These inviting aromas are coming from cheesy cornbread, broccoli tartlets and filo pastry parcels prepared by lone parents in a mobile teaching kitchen that arrived at dawn today. At the end of the day everything's tidied away, the floor folds up and the five cookers retract into the trailer before the Cooking Bus is driven away to its next appointment.

Each year thousands of schoolchildren and hundreds of adults climb on board this immaculate classroom on wheels for a chance to try their hand at cooking. For this is a pounds 500,000 teaching aid designed to introduce the pleasures of cooking natural, nutritious food to schools and other groups who have missed out on learning how, especially now that cooking has all but disappeared from the school curriculum.

To Jill Luke and Jennette Lasen, the advisory teacher and food technician who travel with the bus, it's their project, but the woman who is the prime mover behind the bus is Anita Cormac.

A grammar-school girl who had to drop Latin and take domestic science O level instead, Cormac became a home economics teacher. After a study break she joined a charitable education trust, to take a bus packed with all kinds of educational support materials to assist design teachers.

"I haven't really got an obsession with mobile vehicles for education," she pleads unconvincingly. For, although she no longer drives a bus - this one needs an HGV licence - she was responsible for getting the Cooking Bus on the road, and recalls its debut last June. "It was such an emotional moment, I jumped up and down waiting for it to come down the road in the dark. I still feel a terrible sense of responsibility for it and its operation. It's my bus."

Realising this could be a dynamic way forward for food education, she approached the Royal Society of Arts, the body which establishes cultural and educational projects. The RSA said: "If you manage to find the funding, we'll support it."

Cormac won sponsorship from Waitrose, and the RSA's Focus on Food campaign, of which she is director, was launched last year. The "huge, expandable pantechnicon" is the most visible part of her mission to bang the pots and pans for food education in primary and secondary schools. Equipped for 16 learners to get to grips with practical cooking, in a year it visits about 100 schools - as well as training adults - as part of the education programme devised by Cormac.

"To operate this bus effectively you have to be very well organised," she says, and there's no doubt that she is. For, as she puts it: "The bus is the glittering tip of an iceberg. Focus on Food is not just about teaching children to cook. It's securing the position of food within the national curriculum, working with teachers, and providing educators with a huge variety of materials and resources."

All of these are produced by Cormac and sent out to schools throughout the year, to keep the subject simmering away among schoolchildren. Then for one week, 21 to 25 June, the heat on food education is turned up when around 1,000 schools - double last year's number - take part in Focus on Food Week, discovering the fun of preparing, sharing and eating food.

As a full-time and seemingly tireless advocate of food education, Cormac doesn't often get the chance to put on her apron and do what she loves and is trained to do - teach children to cook. When she does, she says, "I still think of myself as a teacher." But at the end of the day, although Cormac organises all this from an office in Halifax, she is just as likely to be found mopping the bus's floor in Finchley, Beckenham or Bracknell before she leaves her beloved vehicle and goes home to her farmhouse in Yorkshire.

Focus on Food 01422 383 191 email: linda@design-dimension.co.uk

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
news

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
Extras
10 best table lamps
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    IT Project Manager (technical, applications, infrastructure)

    £55000 - £60000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: IT Proj...

    English Teacher (Bristol and South Gloucestershire)

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: English teachers for day to day cover,...

    Teacher

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Year 6 Teacher RequiredThis teaching...

    SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's Stortford / Stansted

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week