There is a famous quote that goes something like this: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” And sadly what we are giving our children are food systems that rely largely on long, complicated supply chains, globalised processes and farming practices that are helping speed up climate change and soil degradation. But we know there is a better way of doing things. Young people are willing to fix these problems and I believe they can do it. Just look at the strength of the many youth climate action groups and the influence of Greta Thunberg! They have technology at their fingertips and can see through older generation’s outdated views and ways of doing things.
As a parent of young children I feel it is my job to let them discover where their food comes from by getting their hands dirty and discovering for themselves. As food producers you can help too; by broadening young people’s knowledge of food systems and be a good example of a better way of growing, making and consuming food.
With half-term coming up and local lockdowns on the horizon, think about how you can inspire your customer’s children at home. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- It’s really important that we open up conversations between farmers and the people who live locally, and for children to see where their food comes from. I wanted to suggest you have a farm open day if you have a farm, but with Covid that’s probably not a great idea right now. But maybe you could do a Q&A session on your social media channels, a virtual tour, or post short introduction videos of the people who work for your business showing what they do day-to-day.
- Children are so enthusiastic about animals. If you have any, you could use your social media accounts to tell stories about them. For example, post a video of the cows being let out into the fields in spring and kicking their legs in the air and running in excitement; children can relate to this! Show a video of your chickens having a dirt bath and explain why they do it. Put photos up of the newborn animals in spring and tell us what their names are and where they live and eat.
- If you have farm machinery show pictures and videos on your social media with an explanation of how it works and what it does. Children are incredibly curious and seem to universally love tractors!
- If you’re a maker or a baker, share easy recipes that children can try at home with their parents. For inspiration, River Cottage has a list of kid-friendly recipes using seasonal foods.
- Inspire and give help for children and their parents to grow food themselves and save seeds to grow in the future. It’s an incredible way to learn about where your food comes from and children are more likely to be adventurous with the food they eat if they have grown it themselves.
- Think about the food you grow and make, and if it can fit in with any seasonal events or traditional festivals that are coming up that children can get excited about. For example pumpkin picking and decorating at halloween, harvest festival, apple day, bonfire night and Christmas. Run a pumpkin decorating competition on your Facebook page, share some bonfire night winter warmer recipes, or do a 12 days of Christmas Instagram campaign.
- Show how the seasons are changing and what that means for your produce using social media stories or a newsletter in your box. For example when you plant seeds or harvest, or when animals give birth. It will help children to understand the seasons and life cycles of their food.
- Get quality, local food to more children. If you sell liquid cow’s milk, fresh or frozen fruit or vegetables, you can apply to be a recipient for Healthy Start Vouchers. Healthy Start Vouchers are available for low-income families with children under 4 years of age. Visit www.HSRU.co.uk or call the Healthy Start retailers reimbursement unit helpline on 0844 991 22 22 for more information and an application form. Retailer registration is free.
If you have any more suggestions or thoughts on the ideas I’ve posted above please do share them with other enterprises in the Open Food Network Thriving Food Hub which you can find here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/thrivingfoodhub/.
Jo Da Silva