Study highlights need for organic education in Wales
A survey has found that almost one third of Welsh children had never heard of organic food and only half could identify any characteristics of food produced using organic farming and production methods.
The study, commissioned by Organic Centre Wales as part of its campaign to promote the benefits of buying organic produce, involved interviews with more than 500 children between the ages of seven and 15 from across Wales.
Awareness of organic food was significantly higher in rural mid-Wales (85%), while the lowest percentage (51%) was recorded from children in the Valleys (51%). There was a big difference in awareness between children in primary education (7-10 yrs, 37%) and secondary (11-15yrs, 81%), while Welsh-speaking children of all ages were the group that showed the highest level of awareness (86%).
“As a country that is proud of our achievements on the environment and developing policies that promote sustainability, this survey highlights an area of our children's education that needs some urgent attention,” said Jane Powell who heads up schools activity for Organic Centre Wales. “As a relatively new body we have been working directly with schools and local education authorities to promote awareness and understanding of organic production and why it is important but this survey shows just how much more work there is to be done.”
Wales punches well above its weight in terms of organic production. Welsh farmers continue to allocate around 8% of all agricultural land for organic production – twice as much as the rest of the UK. Some of Wales's leading food brands, including dairy producers like Rachel's and Calon Wen, use organic methods and sales of organic lamb and poultry have continued to increase, despite the difficult economic times.
Of the children who were aware of organic produce, almost a quarter (24%) recognised that it was grown with fewer herbicides/pesticides/chemicals, while 19% responded that it was “more naturally produced”. 14% of the same group felt that organically produced food was “healthier” but none of the respondents in the survey, who were unprompted in their interviews, made the direct link between organic production and benefits to the environment or to better animal welfare standards.
Jane Powell heads up schools activity for Organic Centre Wales and believes that Wales has a unique opportunity to use its autonomy on the school curriculum to teach our children about the different methods of producing food and the impact they can have on animals and the environment;
“When we take school groups on visits to organic farms, the level of engagement from pupils and the questions directed to our team and the farmers, shows that children are really interested in knowing about where their food comes from and how it is produced. There are so many confusing messages about food and what you should or shouldn't eat, it is difficult enough for adults to separate the facts from the fiction and this makes the role of education so important.”
Organic Centre Wales is working with Monmouthshire County Council on a pilot project that is set to launch in six schools across the county in September. The objective of the initiative is to raise awareness of both locally and organically produced food amongst school pupils, at the same time as introducing more sustainable produce onto the daily menu. The pilot will involve classroom activities, the production of educational materials, farm visits and mini 'Famers' Markets' being set up in the six schools. The initiative is being supported by the Abergavenny Food Festival, which is organising a 'design a meal' competition at this year's event in September.
For more information, additional survey findings or to request an interview, please contact:
Antony Jones or Chris Latham at Freshwater on 029 20545387 or email firstname.lastname@example.org