Monday, October 09, 2006

Food for thought

Education and growth

Here's an idea that perhaps someone within South Tyneside Council, or even the Environment Secretary, might like to take on board.

Council allotments have long been a favourite place for some of the older generation (without gardens) to spend their time, growing their own fruit and vegetables, and enjoying a little bit of peace and quiet. We have a number of such allotments in South Tyneside, some of which are not in the best state of repair, and others, such as at Holder House Estate, are the target of young vandals always adding to the security costs and maintenance. Some other allotments have seen a change in purpose and are now no longer used for growing, but for the stabling of horses!

One of the best ways to improve "pride in our communities" is to start by introducing a level of personal pride and self esteem, and there is nothing better than the feeling one gains when seeing the results of your own achievements, and being able to say "I did that", or "It's all my own work". I see something in our allotments that could play a part here, and it's alwys best to "cvatch them early".

My ideas are in the formative stage, others could expand upon them and improve them. I would like to see either Allotment Associations adopting a local community school, or the Council trying to create or donate an allotment to a local community school. I would prefer the first option as it involves some voluntary action and a two way dialogue between gardners and schools. The idea would involve schoolchildren having organised access to an allotment and being involved in the growth of organic fruits and vegetable, which when harvested could be used in the school kitchen as part of the school dinner.

Perhaps schools could create a "gardner's club" as an out of hours activity and the Allotment Association could operate a rota system where someone could be available a couple of afternoons per week to help and assist the children as they learned gardening techniques under supervision. The excess and unwanted produce at harvest times could be donated to the school which helped provide the labour.

If the schools were to have an allotment of their own it would require more management, expense, tools, and stricter controls, not unattainable but less attractive than the first option.

I believe such a programme would have many benefits, it would provide a great community building exercise where gardners and schoolchildren prosper from their own endeavours, it would help to maintain and improve the health balanced meals available at schools, and most importantly it would introduce a level of personal pride and achievement within the schoolchildren which they would take back to the classroom and into the community.

Curly believes the Jamie Oliver revolution is not just about stuffing the face!

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