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Earth paints and charcoal recording for Food for Life

We do enjoy working with schools part of the Food for Life program run by the Soil Association. This banner is from the celebration held at West Town Farm and highlights lots of positive responses for food.

We worked with charcoal made from willow grown on site by organicARTS and paint made from the red earth of West Town.

Matt Parkins from Okehampton Primary wrote this great report on the day.

A Celebration of Food for Life

Children from Okehampton Primary school got together with children from other schools across Devon to celebrate Food for Life on a sunny June day. The event was hosted at West Town Farm, an organic farm near Exeter and Polly Frost of Food for Life introduced the day’s proceedings saying “we are here to share ideas about good food and to learn about where our food comes from”. As the children sat on rows of straw bales in the barn she introduced Kevin from the farm who described the activities for the day. He spoke about the things to see on the farm, explaining that organic farming was all about variety. He said, “diversity is important and, without spraying chemicals, we have a wide range of plants and wildlife here on the farm”.

The children began their learning experience by making bees from beeswax and creating a banner with soil paint and charcoal. The Okehampton banner contained the children’s favourite foody words like crunchy, juicy and fresh, along with a few pictures of food and the animals around the farm.

With a large group of children and staff from around eight schools, Kevin led a walk round the farm. Starting at the orchard, the children could see where different varieties of apples for cooking, juicing and cider making were grown. They also began to look for different types of seed from the grasses growing around the farm. They also found that the range of wild plants attracted bees and butterflies that would help to pollinate the apple trees.

The walk continued through a grazing pasture where everybody walked slowly and quietly towards a small herd of cows with calves. Kevin explained how, watching the cows carefully gave a clue about whether they were feeling disturbed. He said “if they carry on grazing and chewing they are relaxed, but make sure you never walk between the mother and her calf”.

Back at the barn the children enjoyed a fresh and juicy lunch with food supplied from around Devon. Bread rolls, sausages, salad, strawberries, yogurt and ice cream had all been grown or produced around the county. Even the apple juice was from a local farm. After lunch, a presentation took place. The Food for Life project is designed to improve the connection that children have with their food and the healthy choices they can make. To encourage this, each school can attain Food for Life awards from bronze to silver and gold. Many of the schools have achieved their bronze award and, thanks to all the hard work from staff and the children, Okehampton Primary School is one step away from achieving silver. Each school took turns to explain how they have been getting on and shared their top tips. Some schools had found it useful to eat lunch together so the older children could help the younger ones, while other schools grow their own salads and vegetables and like to reduce waste by composting excess food rather than throwing it away. One of the boys stood up and said “this compost can go back into the growing beds to improve the soil for the next crop”.

The whole event was a great opportunity for people to demonstrate their passion for healthy local food and one of the teachers said “Food for Life – you have to live it, breathe it and change the school food ethos. Our school is a nicer place to be because everybody shares the work and learns about where their food comes from. It’s a real team effort!”
At the end of the day the children formed a big circle and exchanged gifts including a bottle of cordial, strawberry plants, bean seeds, a salad box, rhubarb jellies and a home-grown recipe book. Polly rounded up the fun day out, encouraging everybody to carry on, explaining that “Food for Life schools are twice as likely to eat five a day as non-Food for Life schools”. The children and staff had enjoyed meeting other schools and left for home feeling energised after a healthy day out.

by Matt Parkins

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