School Food Matters wants every child to understand where their food comes from. What better way to do this than introduce the child to the farmer?
Why Farm Links and Growing?
Our growing/enterprise projects often link schools with a local farm to personalize the food chain; meet the farmer, see the crop in the field and then enjoy eating lovely fresh produce at school – farm gate to school plate.
Register your interest to take part in our partnership projects here. SFM Member Schools are always offered priority to participate, subject to geography.
Not every school can get out onto a farm, but every school can have a go at growing food. School Food Matters has campaigned, alongside Sustain and other partners, to make “Every School a Food Growing School”. And it's good news for London schools, with London rising to the challenge first.
A few years ago, HRH Prince of Wales said that research published by the The Year of Food and Farming: July 2007 was "pretty terrifying stuff". The research showed that:
- 1 in 5 children never visit the countryside - that means that more than one million children across the country have absolutely no contact with the land
- 20% of children say they have never picked and then eaten fruit
- 1 in 4 children across England have never visited a farmer's market or shop
- Children without any experience of rural life are twice as likely to admit they don't know where foods like rhubarb or spinach come from. Many of the children studied in more depth could only suggest that their food came from shop shelves or city centres, rather than tracking back through the food chain.
There is a very real connection between the opportunities children have to interact with the countryside or grow their own food, and their appreciation of the food chain.
Expanding Children’s Food Experiences: The Impact of a School-Based Kitchen Garden Program: University of Melbourne October 2013 shows that hand-on experiences make children more likely to eat a wider variety of foods and have a better recognition of taste and type. Children become more aware of issues of health and nutrition and are making healthier choices. Other studies have shown that children who are given a taste of growing vegetables develop positive appetites for their produce - in some cases, becoming a third more likely to ask for food like courgettes or peas. Research conducted for the Royal Horticultural Society found that teachers positively highlighted the increased range of teaching methods afforded by outdoor food-growing activities. It also found that involving pupils in gardening activities resulted in Every School a Food Growing School: Sustain Report November 2010, better use of scientific techniques, enhanced literacy and numeracy and the use of a wider vocabulary across all areas of the curriculum.
Garden Organic Food Growing in Schools Taskforce Report 2012 teaches children and young adults practical skills that will be useful throughout their lives and school gardens promote bio-diversity, teach sustainable waste management techniques such as composting and inspire good environmental habits, both at school and at home.
In 2011, Benchmarking the views of children aged 7-15 on food, farming and countryside issues: Research for Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board and FACE May 2011 conducted with 2,500 school children across England, Scotland and Wales suggests that on-going encouragement to get involved in food growing is starting to bear fruit. Up to 8 out of 10 primary age children, and 6 out of 10 secondary age children have experienced growing food at home, school, with friends or relations. This is up from 5 out of 10, and 4 out of 10 respectively, 5 years ago.
The ultimate Growing Idea is a school farm. This is a great time for school farms with more school farms opening than closing - a welcome reverse in trend - and numbers now up to over 100 across the country. School farms are enjoying high profile endorsement. Look at what HRH Prince Charles had to say about school farms at the Food For Life Partnership Awards in December 2008:
"For those that find academic studies more of a struggle, they learn practical skills and they also tend to respond extremely positively to working with farm animals. The great thing is that every child can be a success at something and this gives an enormous sense of self-confidence and self-worth."
You can find out more about school farms by going to the School Farms Network or by clicking on the case studies below: