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Food for Thought – The Orchard’s journey to becoming self-sufficient

Allotments at Five Rivers Child Care

When Chelsea Bryan first joined The Orchard in September 2020 as the Registered Manager having relocated from our service in Leeds which was outstanding – she noted that fresh food cooked from scratch was not prevalent on the menu.

In this blog post, Chelsea shares the journey she’s taken the home on, the changes she’s made to the way the home thinks about nutrition, the allotment project she has started at The Orchard, and how she’s committed to making the home become more self-sufficient.

When I first joined The Orchard, I was really surprised to see that they didn’t use much fresh food, instead using processed food, out of the freezer, or out of the jar. With Christmas on the horizon, I was sad to learn that they didn’t make Christmas dinner, going out instead. I realised that this didn’t sit right with me, and I wanted to do something about it.

I spoke to Sarah about it (Head of Residential Services), and we shared our memories of Christmas, and how we both loved working on Christmas Day in Residential, sharing all of the things we had done. We planned that Ollie the Chef would come down for the day, and that he would teach the team to make Christmas Dinner as a team-building activity.

This day was fantastic. It was also an opportunity to go through some menu’s that had been designed by Ollie, and have a go at making some of them! Ever since then, The Orchard team have worked so hard to ensure that everything they make at mealtimes is made with fresh ingredients. Of course – we still have days where we put fish fingers and chips in the over, but this not a regular thing. It’s a backup for when we need a quick meal solution to retain consistency.

The team’s confidence has really grown following Ollie’s recipes and these have gone down so well with the whole team. We now don’t rely on the recipes all the time, but instead find our own – this week I watched one of The Orchard family members, Emma, making chicken goujons and wedges for tea! She made the goujons with fresh chicken and Rice Krispies, and the wedges were homemade too.

We understand the impact of sugar and E numbers on our children, and we want to pack them full of fresh fruit, meat and veg where we can!

One of the young people, joined us a month ago, he had previously been used to a diet of McDonald’s chicken nuggets and chips daily. We had lots of incidents over the first couple of weeks where he would approach the cooker at mealtimes, and become angry, swearing if there were vegetables in his meal. This would quickly escalate into a crisis outburst. I knew that we’d made good progress though, when he sat with me during his CLA health assessment and told the nurse that he doesn’t really like vegetables, but he always tries what is put on his plate and to be fair to him, he has done.

Since we started the project, the boys enjoy meals of fresh salmon, new potatoes and veg; homemade pizza; stir fry; mac & cheese; fajitas – the list goes on. It’s all now made with fresh ingredients – a million miles away from the jars and pre-packaged food! The cupboards are full of herbs and spices! The children love riding their bikes to the local farm to buy freshly squeezed apple juice and we have chickens in our garden who lay eggs. Our allotment project is going amazingly and we are growing potatoes, strawberries, onions, spinach (to name just a few!) to help us become more self-sufficient, but also to teach the children where food comes from.

I remember when I first started in residential child care, and I was asked to mash the potatoes – mash came in a plastic tub from M&S didn’t it?! But this where I learnt to cook, and I want all the children and teams I work with to understand the importance of cooking using fresh ingredients – it creates a real sense of family, and is just another way to show our children that we love them.

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