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  • Writer's pictureAlex

Food education for the next generation

I am writing this after watching Richard Dunne from The Harmony Project deliver his vision for the future of education titled 'Education and Food' at the Harmony Food and Farming Conference run with The Sustainable Food Trust in 2017. Although this seems so long ago, everything Richard spoke about resonates more than ever today. You can watch him speak here.

I think we can all agree education is important. But does the current system set us up to be our best selves? Maybe for some, but for others, such as myself, the curriculum was a struggle.

Now don't get me wrong, I am incredibly grateful for the education I received. However, future generations deserve something more inspiring and, dare I say, radical. We need children who can think critically for themselves rather than being told what to think. An education system that includes reconnecting with nature, looking after ourselves, and looking after our planet.

'Food must be at the heart of our education'

I was stuck in a classroom doing my best to do as I was told, but not always successfully—apologies to my teachers. For me, this learning format didn't come naturally, and I would much rather have been outside engaging with the world and having real experiences rather than absorbing my teachers' opinions.

In his speech, Richard, an ex-state school headteacher, discusses how food must be at the heart of our education. He introduced food growing into his school and helped to transform the lunch menu. He says:

'Growing organic healthy produce, and seeing that journey from seed to crop, and then to harvest it and to share it in school. It's a very powerful experiential message... If we link into farmers and local allotment growers, we have huge potential to localise food growing.'

This fresh produce is used in the school kitchen, and the pupils get to eat this every day. Their catering contractor introduced organic meat and milk and then implemented this change across all 300 schools they cater for.

There are so many lessons to be learnt by introducing gardens in schools and getting children involved with this process from a young age. There is a massive disconnect between food production and the food on our plates. I have heard primary school pupils asking if chicken nuggets come from the same chickens they see at the farm - this is just one example of why we need to reconnect with our food.

A recent study by the University of Sussex determined that regular allotments could be as productive as conventional farms. Urban food growing has a whole host of benefits. We currently rely on exports for 46% of our food in the UK, and we have seen first-hand how Covid-19, Brexit, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict have affected our food systems. From increasing the resilience of these systems to increasing inner-city green space, we could transform our cities.

Reconnecting with our food systems could help us reconnect with nature, provide delicious and nutritious food, and help our fight against the climate crisis.

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