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Primary pupils learn benefits from local farming and food

Primary school children are to be taught about the role of farming and food in a new workbook using poetry to help simplify the science behind the industry for health and wellbeing.

Being distributed to every primary school in the Province, ‘Northern Ireland: Our Food, Our Story’ is written through the medium of poetry, accompanied by beautiful colourful illustrations.

While the book is primarily aimed at children aged 4-12 via this particular schools’ project, it is also targeted at adults.

The science-based and curriculum-linked educational resource is presented in a way that is accessible and engaging for children and covers a wide range of topics such as food nutrients, sustainability, traceability, soil health, grass-fed food, greenhouse gases and carbon sequestration, biodiversity, PGI, PDO, the importance of a balanced diet, dental health, farm safety and Northern Irish culture.

The book was written by Dr Vanessa Woods, a scientist and consumer engagement professional who is focused on informing and educating consumers of all ages about the story of sustainable and nutrient dense food grown by farmers, underpinned by world-class science, and the importance of collaboration across the food value chain, adopting a ‘One Health’ approach to communication.

Josephine Kelly, of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute and partner in this project, said: “AFBI is delighted to be involved in this schools’ project as it brings the story of farming, food, culture and health to our young people in an imaginative way.

“We are particularly pleased that the book is curriculum linked, as it is important that we educate our primary school children on the important role that food plays in human health and how crucial it is in this era of climate change that we produce our food sustainably.”

Vanessa wrote the illustrated book to help encourage science-based discussion on food nutrients, healthy eating and the green climate agenda in primary schools and homes across Northern Ireland.

She said: “Farmers grow high quality nutritious food which consumers require for health.

“We are often guilty of treating food as a commodity because it can be more plentiful nowadays.

“Nutrient-dense food contains more nutrients, eg, protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals, etc, than calories.

“If consumers don’t eat the essential nutrients, health is compromised, and nobody wants that.

“The work of farmers is underpinned by science as they seek to become more sustainable. ‘Northern Ireland: Our Food, Our Story’ is the first step in delivering science-based messages to children, their teachers and parents by telling the story of sustainable and nutritious food and its importance for good dental health, human health and wellbeing.

“Understanding the nutrient density of food and nutritional sustainability will assist consumers in forming a shopping list for important nutrients, eg, shopping for calcium, iron, protein, minerals, vitamins, etc.

“UK households waste on average £700 per year by throwing food away.

“We all have a role to play in delivering sustainable food production systems – starting with the soil on our farms, right through to the kitchen table in every single home.

“Consumers and farmers have a natural partnership and as with all successful partnerships, relevant and effective communication is key.”

Partners in the initiative include ABP, ASDA, White’s Oats, Cavanagh Free Range Eggs, Deansgrange Dental Clinic, AFBI, Fish Producers, and Livestock and Meat Commission.

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