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Helping young people make greener, healthier food choices [WFJ #78]
The latest development in making the local, sustainable food movement more inclusive
In a certain sense, Edventure’s Start-up Course – which brings local people together to launch or support a social enterprise in Frome – is about personal development. Internally, the act of learning, and of building something almost from scratch, helps people find a more fulfilling purpose in life, perhaps at a time when they’re out of other options.
Subsequently, there’s no doubt Start-up’s proven transformative to the lives of many of its participants. Yet I feel the context and motivations surrounding its latest course are just as, if not more, urgent.
Perhaps, as the leader of the Frome Food Network, which is partnering with this Start-up, I’m biassed. But the fact is, along with all the other once-in-a-lifetime crises currently affecting the majority of the local population, there’s a demographic particularly burdened with the greatest threats to the planet’s future. And not enough is being done to help alleviate the cause, or their deepest fears.
And so, while the physical manifestation of the Start-up Course will likely appear cool and novel and perhaps even temporary, the inspiration and conviction behind it is, by necessity, anything but.
As the course readies for launch on the 11th of September (with applications currently open to just about anybody), consider the below a sort of submission statement – not from the captain, but from someone who is helping unfurl the sails and at times maybe plotting the ship’s heading – about this collaboration and what it could bring to Frome.
Edventure’s upcoming Start-up Course – a community entrepreneurship which previously within its ten-year history has birthed or supported the likes of Loop, SHARE Library of Things, and the Community Fridge – has the potential to change the complexion of local food culture as we know it.
That’s because the programme seeks to address issues experienced by a certain important but often forgotten demographic: Young people. Joining forces with the Frome Food Network (a collective of local growers, chefs, and other food-oriented individuals) the task has been set to engage and include young people in narratives around climate and health from a food angle.
Of course, topics like ‘climate’ and ‘health’ aren't particularly sexy to an eighteen-year-old. Which is why the initial brief is for the Start-up group to come up with a food truck from which young people can get, share, and learn to cook delicious dishes made with sustainable ingredients sourced from small, local, and nature-friendly farms.
Why young people in particular? Speaking of health, younger generations are disproportionately affected by health-related issues – for example, a little more than half a UK adult’s calories come from ultra-processed foods, which tend to severely lack nutritional value and can contribute to diseases such as obesity. Among children however, that figure is more like 65%. Meanwhile, it’s not uncommon for school menus to mimic takeaway services, or versions of popular high street chains, like Subway, Pizza Hut, and Burger King. As nutritionist-psychologist Kimberly Wilson says, “It’s almost priming young people to expect that this kind of fast food, convenience, ultra-processed way of eating is just the norm.”
The question is, then, what ease of access is there for young people in terms of adopting healthy, climate-friendly diets when the food they’re mostly used to is anything but? How should that personal journey into eating wholesome, sustainable food begin? And how can it be introduced? Especially when people of this demographic are at that stage of their lives where they become more independent and autonomous – shopping, cooking, and eating for themselves.
Health, though, is about more than just whether the kids are eating their greens. When I said young people are disproportionately affected by health issues, the same is true of climate change. And they know it. Eco-anxiety – defined by some as a ‘chronic fear of environmental doom’ – is becoming endemic among the youth, simply by learning about or witnessing the effects of changes in climate firsthand. In a 2021 global study of 10,000 16-25 year olds, 60% said that they felt ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ worried about climate change, while 75% said that ‘the future is frightening’. 56% even thought that simply, ‘humanity is doomed’.
Again, though some things are inevitable, the question is whether there’s some way to help address this feeling of helplessness. Well, maybe there is. According to professors from Imperial College London’s Department of Primary Care and Public Health, stoking optimism within the youth is reliant on their access to reliable information surrounding climate change mitigation and adaptation. “Especially important,” they say, “is information on how they could connect more strongly with nature, contribute to greener choices at an individual level, and join forces with like-minded communities and groups.”
That, ultimately, is the kind of thing the Frome Food Network wants to foster among local young people. Since farming has proven to be both an apocalyptic, monocultural, nature-excluding method of feeding humanity, but also in certain instances an inspiring, regenerative, nature-enriching force for good, food is an incredible joiner between our daily choices and how they affect climate and biodiversity – for better, or worse.
“We've partnered with the Frome Food Network because Edventure cares a great deal about creating a greener and healthier Frome,” says Colin Atkinson, Edventure’s Start-up lead. “Food is a really good example of that – it can be a win for the environment and a win for our health. The FFN are doing great work raising the profile of this message, so the question for us is how can we use Start-up to support that already great work taking place.
“Our partnership really embeds the course in the community,” he continues. “By working with the FFN, we’ll be able to bring in lots of amazing chefs, growers, and producers into the course to support the work we’re doing. So it’s going to be a real immersion in Frome’s food sector and food culture. Which is really exciting.”
Get involved in Edventure’s Start-up Course, in collaboration with the Frome Food Network, by applying through Edventure’s website. Applications are open to anyone, regardless of age, experience, place of residence, or background.