The connection between the food on our plates and where it’s been grown is getting weaker, with research from the British Nutrition Foundation showing almost a third of UK primary school children think that cheese comes from a plant. There are a number of factors that have contributed to this disconnect - the amount of food imported from abroad, the overpopulation of fast food outlets and our growing dependence on supermarket chains. It is an issue that has particularly impacted the most disadvantaged in our society. For example, data from Public Health England found England’s poorest areas to have 5 times as many fast food outlets compared to the most affluent communities. Lack of access to fresh, locally grown produce is not only a problem for food awareness, but can subsequently lead to poor diet. This may explain why, according to the Food Foundation, ‘the poorest 10% of households only purchase 3.2 portions of fruit and vegetables per day’.
The solution? In this month’s blog, Stef Anderson, our Fundraising and Communications Lead, lays out the Farm’s approach to addressing declining food awareness - “by showing local children and families where food comes from at our city smallholding, we hope to contribute to the food education agenda”. “We also run workshops throughout the year on growing, harvesting and preparing food which we hope to restart this summer, which encourage our visitors to consider starting their own small projects at home. Even a soft herb growing on your windowsill is a meaningful activity and can inspire children to take more interest in food and food production”.
Stef continues, “In 2019, we took part in the Best Summer Ever campaign which provided free activities in our gardens and farmyard as well as free meals to children from low income families during the summer holiday”. This out of school learning is another key way in which we aim to contribute to the food education agenda and the value of this work is recognised in the Government's expansion of it’s Holiday Activities and Food Programme.
We believe that small community farms, such as ourselves, can play a critical role in strengthening that connection between the food on our plates and where it’s been grown. We show people where their food comes from and provide local consumers with high quality, locally sourced produce. In our cafe, we sell nutritional meals prepared using our own produce, showing visitors what’s possible when you bring together healthy ingredients. We have also recently opened a farm shop, which sells fresh vegetables grown straight from our garden.
Small-scale farming however is under increasing threat, with many farmers fearful about the impact of post-Brexit trade deals and the loss of EU subsidies. The UK has lost over 100,000 farms since 1990 and writing in the Guardian, Prince Charles gave his backing to the industry. “To me, it is essential the contribution of the small-scale family farmer is properly recognised – they must be a key part in any fair, inclusive, equitable and just transition to a sustainable future”.
We couldn’t agree more. If you want to support your own small-scale ‘family’ farm with a donation, then head to https://www.ouseburnfarm.org.uk/donate.
BBC NEWS. 2013. 'Cheese is from plants' - study reveals child confusion. [Online]. [Accessed 2nd June 2021]. Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-22730613
GOV.UK. 2018. England’s poorest areas are fast food hotspots. [Online]. [Accessed 1st June 2021]. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/englands-poorest-areas-are-fast-food-hotspots
The Food Foundation. Food system challenges. [Online]. [Accessed 3rd June 2021]. Available from:
GOV.UK. 2020. Holiday activities and food programme 2021. [Online]. [Accessed 2nd June 2021]. Available from:
The Guardian. 2021. Prince Charles: small-scale family farms must be at heart of sustainable future. [Online]. [Accessed 4th June 2021]. Available from: