Smooth(ie) Operators

By Dominika | January 02 2019

Smooth(ie) Operators

Blog Category: General updateBlog Tags: Children & Young People, Education, Jobs & Skills, Gardening & Food Growing and Waste & Resources

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    The debate was ferocious and the kids were divided. ‘‘It’s not a dragonfruit, it’s a prickly pear!’’. Fruit was prodded, sniffed and inspected with interest and apprehension. A few went for it.‘‘It’s nice and sweet! Yuk- the seeds are disgusting! Where’s the bin?’’ Seeds were spat out, controversy was in the air and the fruit didn’t make it into the smoothie mix which already contained watermelons, tangerines and apples. A group of boys were looking into the kitchen from the window wanting to know what was happening, whilst on the far end of the room the Public Health team from Hackney Council were interviewing the budding chefs about their thoughts on healthy lifestyles. I surveyed the gloriously sticky mess all round me and needed to remind myself exactly how I ended up in the middle of it all on a cold Tuesday evening in November.

    Over the summer, I was lucky enough to take part in Hackney Play Association’s Playworks Training, (shout out to Outdoor People– free training is one of the perks of volunteering with them). As I’m pretty new to the world of play having joined the Semble team to work on Outdoor Classroom Day, it was really helpful in understanding the importance of adventure playgrounds and play work, and most importantly- children’s need to play outdoors.

    There I met Kay and Laura, and we got chatting about the lack of fresh fruits for kids who come to Hackney’s adventure playgrounds. All that running round makes for hungry and thirsty kids, but there’s not much budget for food available. Having worked in food waste charities for many years, I knew that there is a solution to this as London is full of surplus food- it’s just about finding the right connections and overcoming the logistical challenges. The cogs in my mind started to tick and decided it was a problem I wanted to help solve.

    Part of Semble’s commitment to community is ensuring that the whole team has the opportunity to go out to meet the projects on the ground, and we have three days in the year to volunteer at a community project of our choice. I jumped at the chance to continue the connection with Hackney Play Association and use this opportunity to see if we can fix this lack of fruit and veg and come up with a model that is workable in the long run.

    Kay and I came up with an idea of a series of workshops across three Hackney adventure playgrounds and play groups. Each had its unique character, but the idea was super simple and easily replicable. Source surplus fruit, get it to the playgrounds and run some workshops where kids create their own delicious concoctions.

    Stamford Hill’s Fresh and Fruity kindly donated some delicious surplus fruit. In addition to the prickly pears, I rescued fresh turmeric, avocados, oranges, bananas, pears, kiwis and watermelons- some flavours that kids were trying for the first time and others that were firm everyday favourites.

    They learned some knife skills and had a serious injection of good food and vitamins. In all cases things got messy and delicious. Hopefully we can find some funding for a cargo bike for collections and turn it into a more permanent fixture.

    Most playgrounds I went to were just a short walk from my home. It’s a cliché, but it’s true that there’s so much great stuff happening almost literally on our doorstep. The adventure playgrounds are doing an amazing job with limited resources and getting stuck in for a few hours can really brighten up a cold and dark winter afternoon, far more than any tv screen. So get out and get involved.

    Thanks to:

    Pearson Street Adventure Playground

    Homerton Grove Adventure Playground

    Clapton Park Play & Youth Project

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Global Project Manager for Outdoor Classroom Day. Dominika is passionate about growing movements that create real change and reconnect people with nature to make life better for people and planet. Before joining Semble, Dominika worked at Feedback and was part of the team that created Plan Zheroes and Slow Food Youth Network. She loves bringing people together around nature and food, and can usually be found either cooking up a feast, outdoors in nature or with her head in a book, sometimes all at once.