We need children to discover real food at school

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  • Picture of Anthony Davison
    Anthony Davison
  • Schools
  • Health & wellbeing
  • Fellowship

The Big Barn project helps schools and their pupils become the centre of a sustainable, healthy, inclusive, food community, with the children learning about how much fun – and how delicious – home grown produce is. Anthony Davison invites you to get involved.

BigBarn has restarted its Foodie Schools project and we’re inviting RSA fellows to get involved. There’s been lots of good work done in the last decade, but  some kids still think milk comes from supermarkets not cows!

That’s hardly surprising. Food and cooking have not been on the curriculum for two generations. And people are more influenced by supermarket offers and cheap takeaways than by the joy and satisfaction of cooking fresh, healthy local produce.

BigBarn has been promoting local food as better for us, and the planet, for 22 years and realised that to get people to change they need to understand the benefits. The target market? Our biggest influencers, our children.

The project’s original objective was to help kids discover healthy food by getting every school growing food, cooking it and selling any excess through a local shop found on the BigBarn Local Food Map. We called it Crop for the Shop in Schools.

The vision was that the curriculum could be linked to the veg patch, to make learning more interesting, as well as getting kids to enjoy real food. Children are our most powerful influencers, so we wanted them to help their parents and friends discover a ‘better way’. The project was a huge success but didn’t get as big as it could have done. Problems included a lack of teacher buy-in, and curriculum restrictions.

But over the past ten years, many schools have overcome these barriers – one even has food relating to every subject in the curriculum, a vegetable patch for each class, beehives, poly tunnels and a chef that cooks what the kids have grown. There’s a lot more too. BigBarn’s new project is about helping all schools integrate growing, cooking, trading and nutrition at their core – and become the centre of a sustainable, healthy, inclusive food community. This means building their own circular economies, so we’re also going to be working on food waste, composting, wormeries, and recipes, to re-use leftovers instead of throwing them away.

The project will make videos on how existing foodie schools overcame their barriers. And we’ll add those videos as the BigBarn team, and perhaps you, help schools overcome the individual barriers (funding, parents/teacher buy-in, curriculum and time limitations) to become ‘foodies’. We will then put all the videos in a knowledge database to allow other schools to follow.

Here’s how the BBC covered the story, just one example of the many schools involved. A great example of an existing food education initiative for the Knowledge Database, already used by 170 schools, is TastEd, which lets children experience the joy of fresh vegetables and fruit. The TastEd philosophy is that learning about food should be more carrot, less stick. It offers teachers support, training and resources to deliver a range of simple, classroom-based, taste-education lessons that are tailored to the National Curriculum, meaning that food education becomes a basic aspect of every child’s knowledge.

We are hoping that TestEd will soon be on the National Curriculum and break down the barriers further, making it easier for kids and teachers to buy-in to the idea of good food. Teachers are just as crucial, as many are part of a previous generation which also missed out on food education.

We hope that as BigBarn builds the knowledge database, everyone will get involved and help their local school ‘go foodie’ or add videos to help others. Wouldn’t it be great to get kicked out of the kitchen by your kids because they want to cook the family a gourmet meal? Or to earn some extra cash by growing food in your garden/window box?

To find out more, visit the website or send us an email.

Anthony Davison is a fifth generation farmer. He set up BigBarn in 2001, to reconnect people with their local food producers, and to encourage both trade and communication. The site now covers the whole of the UK, gets 5,000 visitors a day, and has 9,500 producers on its local food map. Everyone is welcome to add to the map, to encourage trade and share income

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