We Love Our Grandmas!


The aim was to work with a group of grandparents and children to promote good food, improve health and wellbeing and improve social inclusion. The project involved a group of Asian ladies and children aged 4 and 5 who were commencing school. It was hoped that the children would improve their knife and fork skills at lunch time and through a cooking skills programme and that the interactions would also improve social exclusion and increase activity levels for the grandma’s group, and improve healthy eating outcomes of both younger and older participants.

Benefits for the Community

• Reduced isolation
• Greater cohesion in the community
• Greater awareness of food and cooking
• Greater awareness of heritage

Benefits for the Children

• With the help of the grandmas the children remained focused on their food and eat more and better
• The children felt more confident and were willing to try new food
• The grandmas interacted with older children also, which contributed to a more relaxed atmosphere in the dining room
• By learning to hold and use knives and forks better the children developed the necessary motor skills for writing
• Grandmas created a homely feeling in the dining hall
• New skills
• Easing the workload for school staff
• Learning about heritage through food
• Learning new vocabulary
• Learning whilst having fun

Benefits for the Older People

• Increase in learning of new information and skills
• Increase in social inclusion and making new friends.
• Co design approach led to the feeling of empowerment for the grandmas.
• Enjoyment of being with the children.
• Increase in activity
• Volunteering gives a sense of pride and positive self-image
• Feeling a sense of purpose and accomplishment from seeing the progress in the children


The Big Lottery funded Food for Life to explore intergenerational work with Leicester City being one of 3 Pilot sites. Food for Life are currently working with 80 schools in Leicester City. Sandfield Close Primary school have been working with Food for Life since 2015.


The evaluation of the project using a semi-structured interview was conducted with the grandmas and the children separately. The grandmas reassured the children and represented a homely perception. The grandmas were not teachers or dinner time personal and this made a difference to the young children. The grandmas had been introduced to the children at the beginning of the project and the children called them nanny G or nanny R respectively, which is different to other school staff. It was clear from children’s comments and comments made at school in observations that the 15 children all loved cooking with the grandmas. Indeed, they loved cooking. During the interview some of the children mentioned things they had made at home as well.

In the grandmas interview all 5 were together. There were 8 emerging themes for this interview; what they had learnt, being in school, the dining hall, gardening, cutlery skills, their well-being and social inclusion, packed lunches, the co-design process. The grandmas commented that they loved the enthusiasm of the children when it came to cooking and similarly with the enthusiasm with the gardening. The well-being and social inclusion of the grandmas was positive. Some quotes included ‘For me my confidence has grown, I look forward to going to school, you learn so many things and it makes you active, you know when you know you have to be somewhere it makes you get your things in order’, ‘We have made lovely friends, we met Lisa….she’s looked after us’ and ‘I didn’t have many friends and now I have so many’.


One of the main results was the success of the use of cutlery with the reception children. This was conducted using observational analysis via the school cook, the Headteacher, Reception teachers, staff and the grandmas. An assessment was carried out at the start of term as to how many out of 38 children could eat with a knife and fork. At the start of the school term only 6 children could hold a knife and fork with 3 being able to use a knife and fork. By October half term 2018, 20 could hold a knife and fork and 10 could eat with a knife and fork. By June 2019, all 38 could hold a knife and fork, 35 could eat with a knife and fork as 3 still needed assistance in using a knife. This was a far better outcome than in previous
years and indeed a quicker response earlier in the year than previous years. At the beginning of September 2018 around 10 year 1 children could not use a knife and fork successfully. This activity enhanced the classroom activities on improving the children’s fine motor skills.

Regarding the effect on the physical health of the grandmas, especially the prevalence of diabetes in their community, not much influence other than awareness raising would have been effective on preventing diabetes. The grandmas by nature that they volunteered for a food project in school, were eating healthy anyway. The only issue was with salt. They felt that there was not enough salt in the children’s food and that that altered the taste for children. Despite various talks with the dietician and the cooking skills teacher and the school cook, they had not altered their views on salt in their own diet and the taste of school food for children. There was a positive effect on social inclusion with the grandmas, as part of the evaluation, they all commented on the fact that they had made new friends. The grandma that had looked after her husband at home prior to his death commented that she had no friends her own age and that she had made so many since her involvement in the project.

The effect of having the grandmas in school was positive in many ways for the children. The evaluation was only conducted with the reception children but on talking to other school staff, the grandmas had a good influence on other year groups in the dining room. In the interview with the reception children, it was apparent that they loved having the grandmas there and they enjoyed and spoke excitedly about the cooking they had done with the grandmas. They also loved picking herbs and salad leaves grown at school and making a salad with the grandmas.

Advice to other schools

Focus on who you will target to become volunteers. Are they an existing group? Or are you developing a group?

• Group cohesion is important together with having shared beliefs on health and wellbeing.
• Consider using codesign.
• Have a method of feeding back to staff at the school, any observations noted about lunch times or what particular children have found difficult at lunchtimes.
• Members of the group may not be used to being in a school and attending school meals regularly will get them used to being in school at lunchtimes.
• Consider the school calendar and any training needs of participants when planning to start. Have in mind if any of the volunteers would also like to do cooking and or gardening in school.
• Inform midday school supervisors, receptionists and Senior Leadership Team about the project and the timeline.
• Inform the parents at the beginning of the project. Invite them in to have lunch with the children. Produce a leaflet for them on how to encourage good cutlery skills at home.
• Be aware of how to measure success and take a base level of abilities and knife and fork skills. Consider observational analysis by key people.
• Be aware of religious and cultural aspects of the school population.
• Plan some initial costings of the volunteers having a school meal. Consider any costings for ingredients for cooking and plants and seeds for food growing.
• Meet regularly throughout the project.

Local Prioirities

Scottish Strategic Objectvies

Although this project is south of the border it is clear to see how a similar project could contribute to people living in Scotland and how it would help address the following Objectives:

SMARTER – Expanding opportunities to succeed from nurture through to lifelong learning ensuring higher and more widely shared achievements.

HEALTHIER – helping people to sustain and improve their health, especially in disadvantaged communities, ensuring better, local and faster access to health care.

Scottish NPF national outcomes

A similar project could easily contribute to the following national outcomes of the Scottish Government’s National Performance Framework (NPF).

  • Children and young people – we grow up loved, safe and respected so that we realise our full potential
  • Communities – we live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe.
  • Culture – we are creative and out vibrant and diverse cultures are expressed and enjoyed widely.
  • Education – we are well educated, skilled and able to contribute to society.


Email Lisa Didier (Food for Life,Soil Association) or call on 07718570945.