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Four steps to Food Enlightenment

Wednesday, 17 June 2015 17:20
Bill Graham, Education Consultant and former CEO of Farming and Countryside Education

Four measures that, given a free hand, Bill Graham would introduce to reignite children's relationship with where their food comes from to improve the lives of future generations.

What does farming mean to children when there is plentiful food in the shops?

Does the countryside offer anything apart from a large green space for the occasional recreational visit?

We have all seen the headlines that there has been a dramatic and long-term decline in children’s relationship with the outdoors and their understanding of where food comes from, affecting not only children’s health and wellbeing but food security and environmental and economic sustainability.

Below are four measures that, given a free hand, I would introduce to reverse this trend and improve the lives of future generations.

One. Create places where children can spend quality play time.

I would plant growing areas in all schools, parks and allotments, so children are able to plant seeds and nurture their own vegetables and enjoy working out of doors. I would set up children’s kitchens to introduce children to the joy of turning their produce into wholesome and tasty dishes to eat.

Two. Slow down the learning journey.

I was intrigued to come across this quote from Paula Owens at the Geographical Association extolling the virtues of slow learning: “Learning journeys don’t always have to be linear and target driven. They can be playful, explorative and serendipitous.” I’d give teachers the confidence to add some meanders to the learning journey. I’d encourage them to create opportunities for children to wonder, enquire, imagine and discuss.

Three. Enable all children and young people to visit the countryside.

Only here can they can see for themselves how food is grown and the land is managed, and there is no substitute for first hand experiences, which have a lasting impact on children and young people. There is an enormous amount of goodwill within the agricultural sector to encourage and support educational visits; the biggest barrier is the cost of hiring coaches so I would introduce a transport fund which would allow all pupils equal access to the countryside.

Four. Set up a systematic scheme of countryside vocational learning.

If we are going to fill the increasingly scientific and technical jobs that are required by the agricultural sector in the next ten years, young people need to learn practical skills that are assessed in a way that is trusted and valued by employers. We must be serious about attracting new entrants, giving greater support to Bright Crop to inspire young people to consider careers in agri-food.

Job done! I can now move onto a set of measures for adults...

What would your four measures be?

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