Local Food Links – Getting to the Root of the Matter

Healthy lifestyles and fresh food are an important part of life at Okehampton Primary School and many of the messages the children are learning have a local flavour too. Each of the classes throughout the school has access to a vegetable growing area where they can get a hands-on experience of producing their own fresh herbs and vegetables. The staff at the school are also focussed on showing the children how home grown food can be nutritious, but the raised beds have an extra local feel about them too. Over the last winter a set of timber growing beds were completed by local company, White Wood Management, and installed around the school grounds. Jim White explained that “the timber for these raised beds came from Woodland Trust woods in the Bovey Valley on Dartmoor. The larch is a species of tree that is being gradually removed to allow the natural woodland to thrive – and it produces great timber too. These raised beds should last for many years”.

The timber was milled and built into raised beds at Jim’s workshop and now sits proudly outside the classrooms, bursting with rows of fresh beans, carrots, lettuce and herbs. For many of the children it is their first opportunity to try their hand at a bit of gardening and to taste the freshest of food with the lowest of food miles. Year 4 Kieran has been learning where different foods come from and he has even had the chance to cook lunch in the kitchen. Mrs. Rickwood, the Eco School Coordinator said “by learning about local food the children can make good choices about their diets and protect the environment as well”.
Other groups are learning about plants and are beginning to identify what is growing at school. Looking in one of the raised beds, they pointed out basil, parsley and other herbs, saying “Mmm! Mint smells minty, and “rocket tastes a bit spicy!”

The children have a great pride in their school and the healthy food messages are clearly part of everyday life. As they pick their school-grown carrots and chat together they show how they understand the value of good fresh food and, in this case, how local timber can contribute to their learning as well – roots and all.

by Matt Parkins

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