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Around 2,000 primary school pupils across Scotland will take part in specially created 'food and farming' education days this year thanks to an expanded grant scheme announced yesterday by Richard Lochhead.
The Rural Affairs Secretary also revealed that 12 schools will receive funding to help them host special Farmers' Market events, building on the success of a scheme launched last year.
Mr Lochhead used the opportunity of his keynote speech at the AGM of the National Farmers' Union Scotland in St Andrews to announce the latest phase of the Scottish Government's action to teach the country's children about where their food comes from, and to make a pledge that within five years, all pupils will get the opportunity to learn about food and agriculture.
Educating children about the importance of our food chain is one of the key areas highlighted in the Scottish Government's national food and drink policy Recipe for Success which recognises that some young people do not understand how their food is produced, how it is cooked, and how the choices they make about food affect their health and impact on the environment.
This year, funding will be provided to the Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET) and Eco-schools to allow 1,800 primary six pupils to take part in food and farming days; for 12 schools to host Farmers' Markets; and for a range of Eco-schools activities to be delivered around the theme of 'food and environment'.
Announcing the funding, Mr Lochhead said:
"Scotland's food producers turn out quality products that the world wants to buy. That quality is backed up by a fantastic reputation that now sees our food and drink sector worth 11 billion pounds a year, showing record growth.
"Scotland has earned the right to be seen as a 'Land of Food and Drink', and we must do all we can to help protect and nurture that position. Our national food and drink policy has helped us build on that reputation right around the world.
"It is vital, though, that we also keep spreading the word to the people of Scotland, and in particular to our young people. If we are serious about continuing Scotland's food revolution, and making Scotland healthier, we need the next generation engaged.
"Last year, our first partnership with the Royal Highland Education Trust and Eco-schools was a fantastic success with hundreds of pupils visiting farms and learning about food journeys from plough to plate. We have supported three highly successful farmers' markets in schools and a new topic has been developed for the Eco-Schools Scotland programme.
"The 85,000 pound package I am announcing today will provide more funding to RHET to expand their work with schools, including the delivery of 12 farmers' market events, and will help Eco-schools to support schools embed the valuable learning opportunities they are promoting on food and the environment.
"This is very positive progress, but there's still a long way to go. I want to make sure that no child in any Scottish school misses out on food and countryside education. That's why I am also making a commitment to provide every child in Scotland with the opportunity to learn about food and agriculture by 2015."
Welcoming these announcements, Education Secretary Michael Russell said:
"Our schools have a vital role in helping Scotland's young people learn about local produce, primary food production, marketing and distribution, as well as health, hygiene, the environment and sustainability issues.
"Food and the environment provides an excellent context for learning in Curriculum for Excellence and the new Eco-Schools topic promotes learning in this area and helps recognise the achievements of schools. This funding, and the many activities and events it supports, will play an important part in giving many hundreds of pupils across Scotland a range of cross curricular benefits in an area that's of vital importance to our nation's future wellbeing."
RHET Manager, Alison Motion said:
"The pilot project has been very successful, with overwhelming support from the schools involved. The interest from other schools about the Farmers' Market who have read about it or heard about it is increasing with every one that happens. The continuance of this project hits all the targets for schools in terms of enterprise education, literacy, numeracy and food sourcing, and the farmers and this government's policy of promoting seasonal, local, sustainable food. The links made between schools, communities and farmers will hopefully last long beyond the day of the market. The funding of twelve new farmers' markets in schools will build on the learning so far and produce a template that others can follow in the future."
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