10 July 2023
Documenting the Small Grants Programmes
The Veg Advocate Small Grants Programme: exploring how to increase veg consumption in communities across the UK
From May 2022 to March 2023, Peas Please Veg Advocates from across the UK were awarded micro-grants of £200, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, to pilot a community activity which would support the Peas Please mission of helping everyone to eat more veg.
Tackling issues ranging from the affordability of veg to reducing food waste these activities reflect the hard-work, creativity, and passion of the Veg Advocates.
The Veg Advocates Documenters' celebrate the success of these grassroots activities in promoting and sparking conversations about veg. They also reflect on some of the broader changes that need to take place to ensure that these activities can be copied and adapted in communities across the UK.
Activities involving children
In this blog, Veg Advocate Magdalena Rechnio explores three child-focussed activities delivered by Veg Advocates in England. Highlighting some of the common methods used by these Veg Advocates, Magdalena reflects on the potential resource these activities offer to schools and community groups across the UK.
In north, central and southern England exciting projects began in summer 2022 which promoted vegetables to children in creative, but simple and fun ways. Altogether over 500 children and their families benefited! Some common themes emerged from across these activities:
Making veg fun: children were encouraged to try vegetables through growing, games and activities.
Simplicity: conscious of the financial and time pressure on families, these activities promoted veg recipes that required only basic equipment, cheap ingredients, and quick methods.
Rewards: these projects used stickers and prizes, e.g. from Veg Power, and simple verbal praise to reward children for their efforts, helping to build their self-confidence.
Child-led: these activities involved children at their heart, harnessing their imagination and creativity, instilling ownership over their food choices and normalising veg.
These activities were not just about getting children to eat more veg; they also encouraged whole families to cook and eat vegetables either directly - via family workshops - or indirectly, through activities beginning in schools, which inspired other family members to cook and eat more veg.
Growing veg at school environment: a case study from London
In Southwark, London, Christina Nilsen Wheatley founder of Edible Rotherhithe designed and delivered field-to-fork, creative and educational activities to show children how vegetables grow and encourage them to try new foods. Based in a polytunnel in the school’s playground, Christina helped children plant, water, harvest and shell vegetables, follow recipes and eat veg.
These workshops demonstrated ways of eating veg that were cost-effective and minimised the need for cooking. For example, children received salad kits to prepare at home with their families, which were very positively received as they provided free ingredients, simple recipe cards and did not require any expensive kitchen gadgets to prepare, or much cooking, reducing fuel costs.
By taking children through the journey of seed to plant, this activity connected children to where food comes from and gave them time to become familiar and interested in the vegetables grown in the school garden. Most of the pupils live in densely urban area of Southwark, which scores very high on deprivation indices. The environment of the polytunnel expanded the way many pupils were exposed to veg, which was predominantly from supermarkets, or as a frozen product.
‘’The salad bags were lots of fun. It was great to do it together as a family [this is] something we could not normally afford to [do].’’ (Parent of a child who attended Christina’s project)
After repeated positive exposure through growing and other activities based around vegetables, Christina reports that children’s knowledge and interest increased, so that they actively ask for more veg during the school lunch. Moreover, parents requested more recipes, for low-cost, easy warm meals, so Christina has been developing slow-cooker recipes. Veg grown in the polytunnel that was leftover was given to the school canteen to include in school meals.
Another success was that the Year 1 teacher, inspired by Christina’s ideas, incorporated the topic of vegetables into the curriculum. Plastic food toys were replaced with real vegetables and fruit, giving the children an opportunity to interact and familiarise with real food.
The “Fruit and Vegetables Faraday Champions” activity was not only attended by an impressive 164 Year 6 pupils, but it also secured external funding, so it can be continued as there is already a waiting list of interested pupils.
‘’I cannot wait for the funding to come to continue the after-school club and Eat Them to Defeat Them as it had such an impact and was positively received.’’ (Christina, Veg Advocate from London)
Promoting veg as a school holiday activity: a case study from Hull
The Summer Eating Challenge developed by Darren Squires and Anna Route from the Hull Food Partnership, tasked children over the summer break to become Veg Champions. More than 300 primary-school pupils accomplished the challenge over the six-week holidays by eating vegetables and describing their veg adventures in an accompanying booklet, which was awarded with a certificate and an apron.
The idea of challenging and rewarding pupils to eat veg was inspired by the Summer Reading Challenge and #EatThemToDefeatThem campaigns. The workbook features recipe ideas and tips, inspiring pupils to try and respond to the vegetables in a choice of ways e.g. with a recipe, or drawing. The positive language chosen “Super Six Veg”, ”Champion” and “Veg Adventures” made veg exciting while removing the pressure to eat.
Alongside the workbook, Darren posted demonstration videos of recipes featuring vegetables from the workbook, encouraging the whole family to experiment with flavourings and discuss the taste, textures and flavour of those veg.
The project was such a success that all six schools are going to run the challenge again in summer 2023 with some minor improvements to the communication to ensure even greater success in helping children and their families eat more vegetables.
"What a lovely idea, great way to get the children to try new foods" (Staff member at one of the schools)
Veg art and storytelling in a community centre: a case study from Hastings
Chef Isabelle Endreo, founder of the Rainbow Kitchen Magic used the Veg Advocate micro-grant to combine veg and art in a practical, reflective and creative workshop for families with children aged 4-11 years from the Clifton Community Centre in Hastings.
Isabelle’s event began with creating easy snacks with children such as sandwiches, wraps, salads, and even 10-minute mug cakes featuring colourful seasonal vegetables where children were allocated roles and had to follow the recipes from the booklet.
The simplicity, adaptability and colourful presentation of the recipes ensured that children and parents were willing to continue making them again at home. The safe cooking and simple preparation methods allowed children to lead those activities. Families explored ways of including veg they disliked such as grating carrots or courgettes into chocolate or lemon cakes.
Finally, the pinch of art boosted creativity by not only telling stories about the vegetable heroes, but also through children combining their own food-creations, as they children created veg-puppets and told stories about them. A day full of fun turned everyday cooking into an enjoyable and memorable family-focused experience.