Young gardeners get food for thought
The Northern Ireland woman responsible for edible gardens at some of the region's top hotels and restaurants has launched a book to encourage children to 'sow, grow and munch' their way through food here.
The initiative, aimed at encouraging school-age children to grow, cook and eat local and home-grown produce, was launched at Parliament Buildings.
'Edible gardener' Jilly Dougan came up with the idea for 'Sow, Grow, Munch' as a response to worries over the quality of gardening education in schools.
She manages the edible gardens at all six Hastings Hotels and is also the brains behind the gardens at other high-end Northern Ireland restaurants such as Fontana and Clandeboye Lodge, both in north Down.
Sow, Grow, Munch was officially launched last Monday at a Stormont event hosted by MLA Jo-Anne Dobson.
Ms Dougan said: "I have been in and out of lots of schools and some have really fantastic food growing initiatives.
"However, some have nothing in place or they have a garden which is overgrown and unloved, with really keen teachers who don't know where to start. I saw a need for a simple guide, which was specific to our climate and the school year. The guide isn't just about growing though, it's about local food and how to cook simple food from scratch.
"Growing food in schools has many benefits; children learn where their food comes from, and how it is produced.
"It encourages healthy and seasonal eating, is great exercise, encourages team work and can double up as an outdoor classroom."
The project is supported by the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) and Tourism NI.