School Children Better Understand Their Food

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School children in the Westcountry now have a better understanding of where their food comes from as a result of 'Dig Down South West', according to a new survey.

It has fired the imagination of the children in so many different ways and it is amazing what you can learn from a carrot.

Almost 50 schools across the region unanimously agreed that through the campaign and by growing their own vegetables, the children's knowledge had increased since the initiative was launched earlier this year by TV personality and expert gardener Charlie Dimmock.

Nine months ago, almost two thirds of pupils struggled to identify the origins of everyday food products they consume and less than one in four children knew that beef burgers were sourced from cows - just under a third thought they came from pigs.

A third of children incorrectly identified the main ingredient of crisps and over half couldn't tell that milk or cream was used to make ice cream. Over 1,100 youngsters were questioned for the research commissioned by farmer's insurance experts Cornish Mutual.

The new survey* shows that boys in particular and those pupils needing a greater level of support appeared to benefit most from the 'Dig Down South West' campaign. The majority of schools involved used it as an integral part of their curriculum and many extended this outside of school hours. Over half of schools used the dedicated website to support their involvement.

88% of Devon schools provided opportunities for parental involvement - the highest of all counties in the South West. 70% felt 'Dig Down' provided benefits to the wider community.

71% of Cornish schools received external support from the wider community and were more likely to put the vegetables they grow to a variety of uses.

Only a quarter of schools in Dorset were growing vegetables before they got involved in 'Dig Down' and 70% felt the campaign provided benefits to the wider community.

Just over half of schools in Somerset felt their wider community had benefitted from their school getting involved in 'Dig Down South West'.

More than 50 vegetable gardens have been created in primary schools across Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset as a direct result of this initiative by Cornish Mutual. Nearly three quarters said they'd wanted to increase children's awareness of where their food came from and promote healthy eating amongst pupils.

All respondents to the survey said their school had 'benefitted' from being involved and it 'fitted in' with the healthy schools agenda - the overall experience was described by all schools as 'highly positive'. 21 schools that had not grown vegetables before taking part in 'Dig Down South West' said their experience had encouraged them to continue in the future.

Commenting on the new findings, Alan Goddard, Managing Director of Cornish Mutual, said: "Without question, 'Dig Down South West' has been a resounding success in the positive and beneficial experiences schools and their pupils have had by being involved. We're delighted to hear that the children's knowledge of where their food comes from has improved since the initial research and it's great that the initiative has made a tangible difference to their education."

He added: "There's also evidence that the benefits of the campaign have been extended outside the school boundaries into the wider community and its clear there's been a real impetus for some of the participating schools to continue, or even expand, their efforts for growing their own produce in future years."

Just under half of schools had received help from members of the wider community during the course of the campaign and some said their project was encouraged and supported by local farmers. Two thirds of schools allowed pupils to take the produce home; while just over half used the vegetables within their cookery classes.

Kerry Grineau from Kinson Primary School in Bournemouth added: "The children have become more aware and are taking responsibility by ownership, as they are able to see the results of their work. I was really pleased to see how the children took part in the project. It was quite touching seeing them with some vegetables they had never seen before. We have also recently won a local SW competition for our garden so we have been recognised for the work we have done."

David James from Westfield Arts College in Weymouth said: "It has fired the imagination of the children in so many different ways and it is amazing what you can learn from a carrot."

Ginny Ballinger from Perranporth Community Primary School in Cornwall said, "Dig Down had the WOW factor, an amazing experience."

Dee Towers from St Neot Primary School in Cornwall said: "We did not grow vegetables before, we shall be growing them in the future."

For more information about 'Dig Down South West' visit http://www.digdownsouthwest.co.uk and for more about Cornish Mutual's products and services, visit http://www.cornishmutual.co.uk.

For more information, contact:

Ryan Martinez                                                        
Deborah Clark Associates                                
01208 77900                                                        
07887 746569                                                        

Melissa Ward
Cornish Mutual    
01872 277151
07702 673343

Notes for editors:

*Interviews were carried out by telephone, with a total of 49 schools which participated in the campaign taking part. Independent market research company PFA Research Ltd conducted the study 'Dig Down - A Follow-up Survey'.

Cornish Mutual is the only general insurer based in the South West and provides a broad range of insurance cover for the rural community. For more information visit http://www.cornishmutual.co.uk

Founded by a group of Westcountry farmers in 1903, Cornish Mutual is the only general insurer based in the South West. Even today, the company is still owned by its Members, and remains at the heart of rural communities throughout Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset.

Although staying true to its origins in agriculture and farm insurance (around two thirds of Cornwall's farmers are Members), Cornish Mutual now provides household, commercial, events and personal accident insurance to Members of all descriptions, living or working throughout the South West countryside.

We are also extremely active in the region's rural communities, sponsoring and supporting dozens of local events throughout Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset.

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