Food is a huge part of our everyday lives and yet many of us have never been more disconnected from the growing and the cooking of it. As head of schools and youth at WWF, I’m sharing my Plant2Plate journey and some inspiration and ideas for teachers and parents to get growing and cooking their own food.
Are you one of those people who believe that an interest in gardening and growing food is something that tragically happens when you reach a certain age? Well it certainly happened to me – and I’m so very glad it did but so very sad that I didn’t get the bug decades ago.
Too young to have experienced the need to ‘grow your own’ during and after the war (thankfully); not quite of the hippy era to have a go at finding my way “back to the garden” (what a great song Joni Mitchel’s “Woodstock” is!); with schooling that covered cooking classes but not how you came by the raw materials; and parents from a generation in which success and progress was about release from things that made you have to get your hands dirty (literally). I didn’t have much ‘external’ encouragement. And sadly it took me a while to find my own way.
I now know the absolute joy of being out in a green space where I can build a really personal connection with nature – by gardening and growing food side by side. I appreciate how it takes care and some commitment, to be out in all weathers, not being afraid to make mistakes but being willing to have a go, learn as you go – and then the overwhelming achievement of enjoying your first ‘produce’.
I’m recalling now that old series “The Good Life” where Barbara and Tom ‘carved’ the first egg laid by one of their chickens for a very special dinner, and a picture I posted on Facebook back in the summer of my husband with a rather sorry looking stalk of sprouts. But what both the fictional and real incidents capture are the sense of pride in and value for what you’ve grown – and the magic of knowing it’s going to feed you (well perhaps not the sorry sprouts!).
Let’s check that all out again…
- being outdoors
- physical activity
- enjoying nature
- developing new skills
- sticking at it
- learning the real value of food
Sounds like a pretty brilliant combination. One that our children could really benefit from. But is it possible that the new evolutionary version of children we are so often ‘warned’ about – couch potatoes glued to technology and suffering all sorts of related disorders – can be encouraged to have a go at ‘growing their own’ and then cooking with it? And is there any chance at all that if we managed to achieve this, they’d actually really enjoy and benefit from it? Well I think the answer is: “yes, yes, yes!”
Our campaigns keep on growing
Our Green Ambassadors scheme unearthed some truly inspiring stories from great schools up and down the country that have taken up the challenge of getting their pupils growing and cooking, and the results have been fabulous. What’s more, our recent survey shows that parents and children these days really are open to growing food that’s healthy for them – and the planet too, and its schools that are key places for them to learn what to do.
We’ve been so amazed at what’s possible, that this year we launched our Plant2Plate campaign to help every – and any – school have a go at growing and cooking their own food. There’s “Food for Thought”, a great curriculum resource for use with 7-11s, a lovely storybook “Smith and the healthy meter” for 5-7s, a starter guide and growing calendar for teachers who want to give it a go with their class, and some great activities like our ‘Easy Peasy Pea Challenge’ and recipe competition.
We rarely hear how what we eat and the ways in which we are growing, producing and processing food has a massive impact on our planet, contributing substantially to climate change and biodiversity loss. We should all encourage children to have a go at planting, growing and cooking with fresh ingredients – and learning about the issues behind this activity – because food is key to how we can LiveWell, our health and a really important environmental issue.
How can you get involved?
So if you’re a teacher with an appetite (excuse the pun) for a new challenge, or are already really keen on the ‘green stuff’ in schools and fancy a foodie-themed project – check out our Plant2Plate ‘menu’!