Food industry backs Vanessa’s poetic link with our primary schools

Major agri-food organisations and companies are partners in a novel project for primary school children here that uses poetry to help simplify the science behind farming and food for health and wellbeing.

Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 1:00 pm

Major agri-food organisations and companies are partners in a novel project for primary school children here that uses poetry to help simplify the science behind farming and food for health and wellbeing.

Partners behind ‘Northern Ireland: Our Food, Our Story’, a colourful presentation by nutritionist Dr Vanessa Woods are the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI); Grassland Agro; the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC); the Fish Producers’ Association; leading international meat processor ABP; award-winning Cavanagh Free Range Eggs; White’s Oats, the porridge producer; national retailer ASDA; and Deansgrange Dental.

In addition to an interesting bridge between primary school students and local farming and food, the workbook promotes healthy eating and wellbeing. It may also encourage students to consider our most important industry as an attractive career option.

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Author Vanessa Woods, back right, with Josephine Kelly, acting CEO of AFBI in Hillsborough, with primary pupils Grace and Robert Wilson and a showcase of local food and drink

Written through the medium of poetry, accompanied by colourful illustrations, the book is primarily aimed at children aged 4-12. It is also suitable for adults.

Dr Woods, explaining the thinking behind the publication, says: “It’s a science-based and curriculum-linked educational resource 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.”

She’s a vastly experienced scientist and consumer engagement professional focused on informing and educating people 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 chain, adopting a ‘One Health’ approach.

Dr Moore crafted the 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 explains: “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 (e.g. 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. The book 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 hygiene, human health and overall wellbeing.”

She continues: “Understanding the nutrient density of food and nutritional sustainability will assist consumers in forming a shopping list for important nutrients (e.g., shopping for calcium, iron, protein, minerals, vitamins, etc.). 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.”

Dr Woods grew up on a farm and has a passion for the land and marrying the science of farming, food and health. She holds a BSc in Microbiology from NUI Galway and a PhD in Animal Nutrition from University College Dublin. She has also served as of chief executive of Agri Aware, the independent agri-food education body, and as an AFBI senior scientist.

AFBI acting chief executive Josephine Kelly adds: “We are 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”.

George Mullan, ABP managing director says the partnership will “promote the important role that agriculture plays here. The book is an ideal showcase to tell this story to younger audiences”.

LMC chief executive, Ian Stevenson explains the organisation’s backing, saying it had been involved in education in schools for over 20 years.

“This exciting book is a natural extension of important learning about our world-class food into primary schools.”

ASDA’s senior manager for corporate affairs Joe McDonald continues: “The story of local food needs to be told and this is such a novel and innovative way to do it.” And Harry Wick, Northern Ireland Fish Producers’ Organisation chief executive, sees the book as a way to showcase “some of the world’s most sustainable, top quality seafood harvested from right on our doorstep”.

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