In response to a lunchbox that was filled with unhealthy snacks and lots of wrappers, children worked in pairs and groups to draw pictures of healthy alternatives from each food group. You may have more ideas for a healthy, balanced meal that would fit into the empty lunchbox compartments.
Being an environmental group, there were lots of lively discussions about the decisions that face us when choosing what food to buy. As one child commented: "It's a dilemma!" To help us focus on environmental and health issues connected with food choices, we conducted a taste test. We compared UK grown blueberries with blueberries that had been imported from Poland and fresh mandarins with processed mandarins.
A deeper exploration of where our food comes from and seasonality was made possible by our trip to North Aston Organics Farm. At a time of year when children in the past would have had time off school for potato harvesting, Class 4 harvested potatoes alongside farm staff for customer's vegetable boxes. Everybody worked hard, checking the potatoes lifted by the tractor and sorting the good from the bad. They were kindly rewarded with a kilo of potatoes to take home, once they had estimated a kilo, adjusted the number of potatoes in their bags and weighed again!
Can you remember the names of any of the green or red leafy vegetables that will be ready to harvest in time for Christmas? Mark Stay, the farmer at North Aston Organics kindly offered to answer any questions that children had after the visit. Here are the questions that were emailed to him and his answers:
Q. Why do customers not want to have small potatoes?
A. Many of our customers find small potatoes too fiddly and time consuming to prepare for cooking.
Q. Why do you need to have a tractor to dig up the potatoes?
A. We could dig them up by hand but this would take a lot longer.
Q. How many other fields of food do you have?
A. We have two more fields. One is our "market garden" where we grow smaller batches of crops like lettuce, courgettes and beans. The other has a large polytunnel where we grow things like tomatoes in the summer and salad in the winter.
Q. What makes holes in the potatoes?
A. The holes are made by slugs that live in the soil. We hope to make the field more beetle friendly in the future as some beetles eat slug eggs. Yum!
Q. Why does the tractor have to move so slowly?
A. The tractor moves slowly so there is time for most of the soil to fall through the grill at the back of the machine and leave the potatoes lying on the soil surface.
Q. What makes potatoes go green?
A. Potatoes turn green if left in the light for more than two days. Some of the potatoes grow at the edge of the ridge and become exposed.
Q. Why did Mary Cater find a horseshoe in the field?
A. I think horses were used on the farm until about the 1940s. Horseshoes would occasionally come off while they were working in the fields, perhaps ploughing or carting hay. I sometimes find pieces of clay smoking pipes which probably date back to the 19th century. My best find was a coin with the head of King George III on it from the early 1800s!
To pick up on the environmental and health benefits of eating local food that is in season we made blackberry and apple crumbles to take home and share with our families. Some children asked for the recipe. Here is the one we used which makes enough crumble for four small portions or two larger portions:
1. Weigh 100g of plain flour.
2. Pour the flour into a large mixing bowl.
3. Add 3 tablespoons of margarine to the flour.
4. Use your fingertips to rub the margarine into the flour until the mixture looks like knobbly breadcrumbs.
5. Add 3 tablespoons of Demerara sugar to the mixture and use a spoon to stir in.
6. Place apple chunks in the bottom of an ovenproof baking dish.
7. Sprinkle two handfuls of blackberries over the apples.
8. Add 1 tablespoon of water to the fruit.
9. Sprinkle the fruit with 1 tablespoon of Demerara sugar.
10. Sprinkle the crumble topping over the fruit.
11. Bake in a preheated oven (200 degrees C or 400 degrees F or Gas Mark 6) for 30 minutes or until the crumble is golden brown and the fruit has started to bubble.
In the last session of the project, children made their own healthy food to eat at lunchtime or at the end of the school day. (They had previously collaborated to plan a menu for their group.) The lunches or snacks contained a balance of healthy foods from the five food groups, including fresh fruit and vegetables that were in season and had been grown in the UK. Needless to say, there was a healthy treat to finish the meal!