The City of Kingston Upon Hull is about to become the UK City of Culture in 2017. Join us by helping to inspire an evolution in the food culture of the young people we serve. Wilberforce Sixth Form College is in a catchment area that includes areas of significant poverty, where more than half of our student population are from postcodes with a high deprivation index. In short, Wilberforce College works with communities where life expectancy is about a decade shorter than in the least deprived areas of the UK.
This health inequality is passed on between generations via a culture of dependency that often feels powerless to shape a healthier outlook, one that is struggling to reinvent itself in a globalised world. Good grades and the opportunity to study at a higher level are of course a fantastic way of liberating young people from poverty, but for many this is not possible- for this reason we are compelled to provide other solutions. In a recent highly representative college wide survey we found that over 80% of our students would like to eat a more healthy diet, 60% want to lose weight and 65% would like to be more physically active. We have identified the demand for change so it is now our obligation to do something about it. We at the Seeds of Change Project believe that being healthy and living strong will come from reconnecting young minds with where real food comes from- the ground up!
- inspiring self development through cooperation
- promoting health, wellbeing and hope
- overcoming health inequalities as a community
What we'll do:
To challenge the recurrence of these historical health inequalities and build upon our students desires for self-improvement, we must plant the seeds of the future now. At the centre of a concept like culture, are a series of guiding principles upon which the pattern and shape of ways of thinking are repeated- seeds. If we plant the seed of healthy eating at the heart of Wilberforce College culture, then from it many similar patterns and ideas can emerge.
In an age of austerity, food poverty and terror we are imagining a brighter future. The Wilberforce College Seeds of Change project is literally growing a healthier and happier world at the heart of our college community. We are going to achieve our ambitions from a number of related approaches. These are as follows:
Approach 1: ‘Funk up Your Junk’
By using our creativity we are inspiring the young people we serve to ‘funk up their junk’ and grow fruit and vegetables on college grounds. We are upcycling waste objects such as old filing cabinets, delivery pallets into containers that are used to grow food. We are reconnecting hearts and minds with fresh homegrown produce by turning discarded urban waste into a visible metaphor for a city soon to be reborn as Hull City of Culture. Through art we are painting a better world in the imagination of our future generation; planting the seeds of health, hope and self efficacy.
We must inspire all members of the Wilberforce community to take hold of this initiative and grow a Wilberforce wide collaborative project. To sell the idea to our community of learners we need to make food growth/ gardening cool/ appealing to urban youth. We need to do this in 'up-cycled' containers as this harnesses the metropolitan 'cool' of guerrilla gardening in a more controlled educational environment. We also want to use a graffiti backdrop/ decorated planters to appeal to our young people to many of whom the countryside is an alien landscape. We are currently working with the talented local artist ‘Si2’, who is developing some eye catching artefacts.
Approach 2: ‘The Seeds of Change Pizza Cooperative’ and ‘Pizza Garden co-op’
We want to facilitate the development of a ‘food culture’ at the healthy heart of Wilberforce College. The best way we can do this is by building on the international appeal of the humble pizza. Pizza production is a multimillion pound business which has many different guises depending upon the target market. From the fancy toppings of high street Italian style restaurants to the fast frozen cheap as chip varieties, one thing is for certain- everyone loves pizza. What better way of whetting the appetite for social change within our young people, than getting them making pizzas with toppings grown on college campus. This way we will not only inspire entrepreneurialism within the spirit of cooperation, but we will also enable the youth themselves to play an active role in promoting healthier choices amongst themselves.
Approach 3: ‘The Seeds of Change Edible Wood and Sculpture Park’
The highly regarded Institute of Health Equality published a report in 2014, that highlighted the increasing amount of evidence that suggests that access to green spaces significantly improves health and wellbeing. It also identified how differences in access to the natural environments across England both reflect and contribute towards health inequalities. Many of the young people we work with do not have access to the countryside and so have no experience of the benefits that ‘escaping to the country’ offers- physically, emotionally, intellectually and socially.
What is really exciting about the edible woodland is that it will be planted on the same land as the Iron Age farm that once occupied the college site. This way we are reconnecting our community with our long history and its roots in the earth. We hope to inspire our young people to want to engage with nature and see the rewards and benefits that this may offer them and their children in years to come. We have recently drawn up plans to incorporate raised bed and fruit bushes throughout the woodland area that will also feature sculptural features of art.
(this is designed to radiate out from the current student smoking area to demonstrate the clear contractiction between smoking and health)
Why it's a great idea:
It is well recognised that it can be difficult to encourage people (young) to eat a healthy amount of fruit and vegetables. This is often because of wider economic, political and cultural factors that have been passed on from one generation to the next- Grandfather to Father, Mother to daughter.
As one of the first countries in the world to industrialise, our predecessors were positively ‘encouraged’ to disconnect themselves from food growth and production. Instead, over time food became a cheap commodity to buy and consume with haste in a busy lifestyle schedule. This set the seed of our contemporary food landscape and helped to engender an apparent cultural apathy towards public health.
In the 20th century the UK built itself a dominance of urban environments where streetlights and motorcars cancel out stars and birdsong. Over the last century we gradually withdrew further and further away from the ‘natural world’ into a fortress of bricks and concrete.
It is within these spaces that the sociology of culture has led us via a complexity of factors, to a present day public health crisis. Food poverty, morbid obesity and type two diabetes are all symptomatic of a society that has in many communities, lost touch with the healing power of nature.
Doing something to resolve this 21st century disaster, we at the Wilberforce College Seeds of Change Project are relocating health inequalities back in the public domain. Many of the health problems that cost lives are hegemonically perceived as a consequence of individual ‘poor choices’- for eating refined and processed food. Whether or not these ‘choices’ are because of low culinary skills, an absence of food nutrition knowledge or a lack of time, will or money, our solution is to view these negative outcome ‘symptoms’ as a product of a shared cultural experience in a structurally engineered social reality.
These choices and resulting negative impacts are contextualised in our locality, in the ‘real world’ of political and economic forces. The wider consequences of these structural systems are to be highlighted by the simplest and most innocent of direct actions. We are unlocking the intrinsic power of ‘locality’ to overcome this national illness epidemic.
The more enlightened food producers are contributing positively to the social change that needs to occur in order to challenge these health problems. It is with joy that we appreciate the support of one such company that involves itself with the education of young people in nurturing a connection with food production. Our project will inspire a new generation of student producers.
How we'll get it done:
We are calling the first area that we have converted into a growing area ‘Base Camp’. Like mountaineers setting off on an uphill trek towards the summit of a mountain, we are climbing this simile as a metaphor for the attitudes towards food we are aiming to change.
Recently we launched the Seeds of Change Pizza Company and Pizza Garden Company concepts. The event was by invitation only, so only a select few got first taste. Amongst those selected, were foundation students and Student Council members. After eating delicious home made (vegetarian) pizzas, there was a short presentation about the Seeds of Change Pizza concept and a visual display of Si2’s graffiti artwork.
Following this session, Si2 attended the foundation class to lead a graffiti workshop. Over the next few weeks Si will be helping these students to come up with cool designs for the upcycled planters that we will be using to grow produce in with the Seeds of Change Pizza Garden Company. The best designs will be used. Later on Si2 visited Level 3 Art, where he talked about his work as a professional artist as well as his involvement with our project and of how they can get involved.
We are tackling this problem by interacting with the young people we serve. Through our project we are setting up a mobile pizza company to inspire an entrepreneurial spirit that engages with the idea of creating a proactive healthier community.
Through gentle encouragement our pizzas will be topped with freshly grown produce grown right here on Wilberforce College campus, where we will be emphasising a vegetarian ethos. In doing so we will stimulate a mindful internal college market where food production and growth are reintegrated in young minds. Once established we will take this unit to wider community events and cook pizza using the ingredients grown by local primary schools with whom we are linked.
Why we would like your support:
As you can see we have loads of great ideas that need financial backing. As you can see from our website, we have already been successful in raising funds, so you will be investing in a project that has already inspired local support. It is difficult to budget for specific materials in a project as diverse as Wilberforce Seeds of Change, especially when we are aiming to upcycle 'rubbish' into growing containers. To develop a college wide 'edible campus' including an 'edible wood and sculpture park' the funds we raise are used to build raised beds and buy growing containers, soil, seeds, trees and various items of gardening equipment. There is no governmental funding for this project yet as healthy living is not currently promoted within this age group in educational settings. We are totally reliant upon you kindness and belief in our vision. Thank you for your support.
Tim Blackburn- change cultivator