2 Apr '13

News Waitrose to launch 'grow and sell' initiative for school children

Local schools will get seed kits, equipment, growing instructions and invitation to set up stalls at stores to sell produce

Waitrose is set to sell wonky carrots and knobbly potatoes grown in local schools under a new national scheme backed by gardener Alan Titchmarsh. The supermarket's new 'grow and sell' initiative aims to encourage green fingers in 7- to 11-year-olds across the UK by helping them grow and sell their own produce.

Every Waitrose branch in the UK will work with four local primary schools who will each receive a seed kit. The kit is designed to get school vegetable patches up and running, and includes seeds, equipment and step-by-step growing instructions. Later in the summer, the branches will invite the schools to sell their home-grown produce outside the store.

Schools will also be able to receive additional seed kits' through the in-store Waitrose community matters scheme, where customers can support a local charity by dropping a green token into the relevant perspex box. It is hoped that the scheme, run in association with the Waitrose farm on the Leckford Estate, will reach over 100,000 children.

The national roll-out follows a successful pilot last year when 20 primary and secondary schools across London worked with 10 Waitrose branches in conjunction with the School Food Matters charity to sell fruit, vegetables, eggs, chutneys and jams.

The TV presenter Alan Titchmarsh was recently hired by Waitrose to help raise the profile of British agriculture and horticulture. The store is branching out into the gardening market with the launch of 6,000 products to help customers grow their own flowers, fruit and vegetables.

Titchmarsh said: "Teaching children at an early age about the food they eat and where it comes from is something that I'm very passionate about – we've all read shocking statistics about how many nowadays do not know what chips are made from or that a blackberry is a type of fruit and not just a phone."

Tina Varns, sustainability and ethical sourcing manager at Waitrose, added: "We are really pleased to be rolling this initiative out to all 290 of our branches. Growing at school encourages children to eat well and to go for a wider variety in their food – we believe this is very important as it paves the way for healthy eating."

She said the scheme also allows children to identify where food comes from, the importance of seasonality and the impact of bad weather, as well as developing an entrepreneurial spirit.

The previous government introduced a sustainable schools standard to reflect the importance of sustainability in the curriculum and in schools' own practice but this was not officially adopted by the coalition government.

A major review of the curriculum is currently under way, sparking speculation about how sustainability and climate change will be taught in the future. But it emerged in March that specific mention of "climate change" has been erased from the draft geography curriculum in England up to and including key stage 3 (all children aged up to 14).

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