'Fresher Freshers' to Grow Their Own for a Taste of 'The Good Life'

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New scheme from Homebase and NUS encourages students to grow fruit and veg.

Recent NUS research has shown us that 42% of students would grow their own fruit and vegetables if given the facilities and tools. The 'Fresher Freshers' initiative offers universities and students that opportunity and we are looking forward to seeing the fruits of our labour in the near future.

The traditional image of university students as cash strapped with less than perfect diets could be about to change with the introduction of a new scheme from Homebase and the National Union of Students (NUS) to allow thousands of undergraduates to grow and eat their own fruit and veg. With rising student debt and high food inflation impacting on student dietary habits, the introduction of the 'Fresher Freshers' initiative couldn't come at a better time.    

Launching today, the Grow Your Own' (GYO) scheme aims to promote a long-term behavioural change amongst some of the most financially pressured in society, who often struggle to eat a balanced diet. The average student leaves university with £20,000 worth of debt* and recent research into student eating habits** showed that 63% of students have changed their diet to eat less nutritious food as a result of financial pressures. With food inflation rising to 2.6% in April, £200 million of university funding cuts just announced and the possible introduction of VAT on food on the horizon, this effect is only likely to increase.

The Homebase scheme will provide plants, seeds and garden tools, as well as advice and support from local stores, to universities that have provided land and staff to support the initiative. Campus activity will include creation of GYO societies, development of plots and polytunnels, the implementation of veg box schemes and the sale of produce back to fellow students and local communities.

Matthew Compton, category manager, garden horticulture at Homebase said: "This initiative is about creating a generation of graduates with healthier, greener and more pocket-friendly eating habits. If students learn at this influential life-stage to grow healthy, fresh food for themselves and their local communities we hope they will take those skills and that passion on into later life. The GYO category has increased 30% year on year and we want students to be able to benefit from this social trend."

Susan Nash, Vice President of Society and Citizenship of NUS said: "Recent NUS research has shown us that 42% of students would grow their own fruit and vegetables if given the facilities and tools. The 'Fresher Freshers' initiative offers universities and students that opportunity and we are looking forward to seeing the fruits of our labour in the near future."

The initial rollout will see capital, product and expert support provided to the University of Bradford Union, Leeds University Union, Liverpool Guild of Students, University of Gloucestershire Students' Union, University of Bristol Union, Students' Union Royal Holloway and University of Kent Union.

Student Sarah Taylor, who has been involved in a growing project at The University of Gloucestershire, said: "With virtually no experience of growing food or gardening when I got involved in the project, I've learnt far more than I ever expected. The practical skills, community involvement and the love of growing and cooking food are amongst the many pleasures of the project that I will take with me throughout my life."

Students can log on to the online community http://www.getintogardening.co.uk to get recipe ideas, growing tips and chat to other 'grow your own' enthusiasts in the forum section.

For more information please contact the Homebase press office at iris PR:

Press office: 020 7922 8122
Jo Lippold: 020 922 8125 / 07767 817 460
Lisa Lim: 020 922 8190 / 07708 840 359
NUS Press Office: 07866 695010
Visit http://www.nus.org.uk/fresherfreshers for more information.    

Notes to editors

About Homebase
Homebase is the UK's second largest home improvement retailer and is recognised for choice, style and customer service across the wider home enhancement market. It has more than 300 large, out-of-town stores throughout the UK and Republic of Ireland. In the last financial year, Homebase sales were £1.6 billion and it employed some 20,000 people across the business.
Homebase sells over 30,000 products across its home enhancement ranges, and has a growing Internet offering. Homebase serves 60 million customers per year through its stores and offers customers the convenience of home delivery for bulky, high-value items.

Homebase was the first UK DIY retailer to achieve Forest Stewardship Council Chain of Custody certification and the first national DIY retailer to be recognised with a Government TrustMark Award, achieved for its kitchen installation service.

Homebase is part of Home Retail Group, the UK's leading home and general merchandise retailer.

About NUS
NUS is a voluntary membership organisation which makes a real difference to the lives of students and its member students' unions. We are a confederation of 600 students' unions, amounting to more than 95 per cent of all higher and further education unions in the UK. Through our member students' unions, we represent the interests of more than seven million students. Our mission is to promote, defend and extend the rights of students and to develop and champion strong students' unions."

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