TastEd and Veg PowerNaomi
Earlier this spring, when it was hard to imagine we would now be in lockdown, the TastEd team was thrilled to collaborate with Veg Power on the launch of their 2020 schools programme. Veg Power is an organisation on a mission to get British children to eat more vegetables – a goal shared by TastEd. You can read more about Veg Power here: https://vegpower.org.uk/about/
Starting in February, Veg Power had a big programme of events in schools focussed around a given vegetable of the week. We had already been working with Veg Power to produce a series of vegetable cut-outs for children to colour in and cut out as part of this programme and it was great to go along to the schools and see how they were getting on. The cut-outs were created by artist Annabel Lee.
TastEd Trustees Bee Wilson and Kim Smith delivered two sessions of TastEd in collaboration with Veg Power, one at St Helen’s in Brixton and one at Ninian Park Primary in Cardiff. It was wonderful to see how both the children and the adults responded to the sessions. At St Helen’s, the children enjoyed trying sticks of carrot dipped in cinnamon with their nose pinched and unpinched. Some of the sticks of carrot were purple. When the children first saw these, they thought they might be rotten but were then stunned to find that they smelled and tasted like any other carrot.
The M.P. for Vauxhall Florence Eshalomi joined in with a ‘smelling’ activity in which children smelled leaves of mint and described the memories they evoked. Everyone had a different mint memory – the adults included. For some, it was the smell of chewing gum, for others it was the smell of mint tea. The children of St Helen’s were great at trying new vegetables and loved seeing how a Chantenay carrot can be spun in a bowl like a spinning top.
In Cardiff, the veg of the week was sweetcorn and children explored the difference in texture between corn that was fresh and canned as well as baby corn. Many of the children did not realise that the corn in the cans grows attached to a cob. But they threw themselves into tasting new things in a really joyous way, from purple carrots to crunchy peppers. We were reminded once again of the magic of TastEd. When the pressure is taken away and they are surrounded by their peers in a classroom, most children will try most vegetables. In one of the classes, seventeen children tried a new vegetable for the very first time – and sixteen of them liked it.
These two Veg Power events in schools miles apart made us feel, more than ever, that TastEd is a method with the potential to work in any school with any child. The two schools were very different yet we saw equal engagement in both. Many of the children in Cardiff had English as a foreign language, yet when it came to food, they were still able to express themselves. Maybe food really is the universal language.
Under ideal circumstances, TastEd lessons are delivered by a trusted classroom teacher or T.A. who has already built up a bond with the children. But the children in Brixton and Cardiff immediately responded to the activities even though they had never met us before. One boy in Brixton who was proud of himself for trying peppers and writing about them came up to us at the end and said: ‘Can we have more of this?’