Dig for Dinner Evaluation
The Dig for Dinner project was a family gardening and cooking project initiated and hosted by the Lovers Lane Community Garden in Brampton, Cumbria with Brampton Primary School as a key partner. Cumbria County Council’s Community Grant Healthy Weights Fund funded the project.
The project ran for a total of ten two hour sessions from February to May 2016, during which time the participants learned about aspects of fruit and vegetable growing and how to easily prepare them into nutritious meals.
The aims of the project were as follows:
- To encourage healthy lifestyle choices in the participants and their families through the experience of growing and cooking food.
- To raise awareness of the Community Garden in the area and target young families as new members.
- To develop an active relationship with the primary school.
- To encourage speaking and listening especially for the younger children.
- To work with at least twelve families.
- To provide members of the community garden to run the gardening workshops, manage the project and evaluate the outcomes.
- To provide a chef and assistant to run the cooking sessions.
- To have a member of school staff involved in each session.
- To conduct ten two hour sessions in two blocks of five after school.
- In each session spend time in the garden learning about and actively taking part in different aspects of gardening.
- In each session use some of the produce from the garden and learn how to cook a dish.
- Take the prepared and cooked food home to eat.
The need for the project.
Lovers Lane Community Garden has a predominantly retired membership and although it is a very active group there is a need for a more mixed demographic, socially, practically and for reasons of inclusivity and sharing.
‘According to Cumbria County Council’s Obesity Profile (February 2014), for reception aged children in Brampton the levels are relatively high when compared to the other wards across the Carlisle area.’ (Healthy Weights grant application text). This project addresses a need to introduce ideas for healthy lifestyles in a fun and engaging way that includes children and parents.
‘The school is particularly interested in the project as they see that it could support one of their targets. This year they feel the new intake of children have particularly low levels of literacy (speaking, listening and vocabulary). The project would incorporate a lot of active discussion, new words, parent/child communication.’ (taken from the Healthy Weights grant application)
Who was involved.
Lovers Lane Community Garden members carried out the project co-ordination, gardening workshops and evaluation.
The school was involved through the deputy head Chris Armstrong who attended nearly all the sessions and some were also attended by Jane Brown one of the support teachers.
Michael Evans a Brampton chef, and his assistant Rebecca, led the cookery sessions at the Methodist Hall’s fully equipped kitchen.
Families were recruited through Brampton Primary School.
There is extensive documentation on the following links that give an account of the project activity. On the Dig for Dinner blog there are regular posts by Angus, one of the children, and Keith, from the community garden, with photographic contributions from parents, myself and team members.
The TV Link:
The Blog Link:
The Facebook Page Link:
Although the evaluation plan stated that I would attend the first and final session of each 5 week block, in order to gain a greater understanding of the project I observed most of the 10 sessions. In this way informal monitoring was possible which added significantly to what could be gained from questionnaires and interviews.
An important part of the way this project was designed is that it took place outside the school environment and timetable, actively facilitating families to have fun working and learning together. Therefore the ethos of the whole project was about education in the round with learning flowing from school to Dig for Dinner, to the home environment and back again.
A meeting took place between all the project partners to decide on the final details of the delivery of the project and ensure that risk assessments were rigorous. It was agreed then that Michael the chef would go into school for an assembly and introduce the project, after which children would be able to take a letter home to ask their parents if they could take part. Taking part in the project was completely voluntary and was in all cases initiated by the children’s enthusiasm. In total 25 children from 2yrs old to 10yrs old and 16 adults were recruited onto the project with a reserve list in case some people dropped out. The school took the first people who submitted their consent forms and did not select pupils, thus capitalising on the interest from families with a reception age child in line with the project target age group.
Some basic questions were asked at the beginning of the project. When families were asked if they knew about the Community Garden before signing up for the project, the responses were mostly that they didn’t. Some people were aware of it from spending time in the park that borders the plot but had never visited the site, and didn’t know what the community garden was.
These were some of the responses from families and project team members in answer to the question ‘Why did you decide to join the Dig for Dinner Project?’ In all cases of reporting on participant and team member responses through questionnaires or interviews, their actual words are used or they are paraphrased for reasons of brevity. There are many other instances of anecdotal evidence through informal conversation and observation. Every effort has been made to ensure nobody’s views or actions are misrepresented.
(my son) wanted to see if he liked gardening and trying new food. We might make some lovely stuff.
Kids interested to get involved in the activity when promoted at school.
To help my oldest son to be less picky and to try fruit and vegetables. Also we love gardening.
Children were very enthusiastic.
It was my son, he met Michael the chef who came into assembly so that was it he came home with a letter and said ‘I want to do it’ luckily we got a place.
To spend time with my son and keep him off his computer devices.
It sounded fun and informative.
I thought it would be really good.
My daughter very much wanted to take part.
To help the family gain an interest in food sources.
My son is a keen gardener and we hoped for some fun and knowledge about planting and cooking healthy food.
To encourage the boys to learn about veg and gardening.
Through one to one interviews I asked the project team members what their hopes and expectations of the project were and why they wanted to be part of it.
Michael the chef ‘Why did you decide to join the Dig for Dinner Project?
To increase the level of understanding of food, where it comes from and how to cook it. Also to increase skills in adults because you can’t promote a balanced healthy diet to people who don’t have the requisite cooking skills.
School – Chris ‘Why did you decide to join the Dig for Dinner Project?’
To strengthen the connection between parents and children – communication and interacting through a stimulus being outside that the writing in school can be underpinned by talk. It feeds back into school – Angus writing his blog for instance. Making healthy choices. Being out in the fresh air. More to it than food, scope for health and different levels. Could see depth to it. Will always depend on who you get involved. Different families would get different things from it.
Lovers Lane – Keith and Heather ‘Why did you decide to join the Dig for Dinner Project?’/what were your hopes and expectations?
The hope was that families would sign up for the project, that they would stick it out, that they would enjoy it and it would be a new enduring relationship with the school and that some of the families would join the garden. Connecting people with their food is really important.
I was quite open-minded as to how the project could be delivered and targets achieved. I had few preconceptions - this was a new experience - although I have some experience of learning support with older students. I also planned to take photos/video and create a blog to record events. A recipe book was also suggested.
Initially the workshop leaders – Heather, Keith, Chris Armstrong (school) and Michael the chef worked out a plan and timetable of activities to engage the participants, keep them engaged and ensure that they were learning and having a good time. This was very full at the beginning but as the sessions progressed it became clearer what worked for everyone and how much activity needed to be planned and included. Everyone was flexible and open to adapting plans.
The programme for each session was generally as follows:
- Families and Chris arrived from school by walking across the park. Participants had been advised what to wear and what to bring. As the work started in February, the weather was cold and sometimes wet as can be seen in the photographs. Nobody was deterred by this in fact it seemed to make being out doors even more exciting for the children.
- A range of snacks and drinks was provided that would change each week to include a new fruit or vegetable. The children tucked into these with great relish often trying new foods and being encouraged by their hunger and enthusiasm.
- The first session involved an introduction to the project by Heather and Keith with everyone introducing themselves.
- The group was divided into three and each one decided on a name for their pack that was a fruit or vegetable.
- Each group lead by Chris, Heather or Keith completed three tasks such as weeding, planting or composting. Later this was reduced to two because of time restraints and how engrossed the groups became in their tasks. Games were also introduced such as the treasure hunt where groups had small flags with pictures of vegetables on, which they had to plant in the corresponding bed in the garden. Many games and activities were planned in reserve in case enthusiasm for the work of the garden waned, but this never happened. In fact the children and increasingly the parents just wanted to get involved with the real work of gardening which was gratifying for all concerned.
- Tools were cleaned and put away (child sized good quality tools were bought for the project and were an invaluable addition making it easier for children to be part of the garden in the future too.) Health and safety in the garden was always uppermost in all instructions from the gardeners and the teachers and was taken on board sensibly by everyone.
- Keith stayed behind to clear up and make sure the garden was ready for others to use.
- Produce was bagged to be included in the cooking. At first this was limited because of the time of year but herbs, leeks, potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes and rocket were used regularly to demonstrate how they could be incorporated into dishes. Everyone walked to the Methodist Hall, washed hands, changed out of wet or muddy footwear and proceeded to the upstairs hall and kitchen for a drink and a cup of tea for the adults.
- In the hall each family had a table set out with ingredients and a recipe card. Michael then introduced what was going to be cooked that day and how the produce from the garden would be used. Michael and Rebecca then demonstrated the chopping and assembling techniques that were to be used, and showed the group how to make their dish which for the first week was leek and potato soup with bread rolls.
- When the cooking was finished everyone helped tidy up and waited for the hot food to be put into containers and bags to take home. Often even though the food choices were very well planned and designed to cook quickly there was an inevitable ten-minute lull that could potentially have been difficult particularly for the younger children. However because of the size of the hall there was plenty of space for Chris to organize games for the children, which was appreciated by everyone and allowed parents to chat to each other.
- The end of the session was marked by everyone taking their food home and their recipe card for future reference so that they could try the dish at home.
Interim findings after the first five-week block.
Through observation of sessions, evaluation interviews and questionnaires it was obvious that the project had been enjoyed by all concerned.
(From questionnaires filled out by families during conversation)
What has worked well for you and your children?
Planting a few plants together. Ajay might recognise a weed at home now.
Everything. Ethan and me will be joining lovers lane allotment. Something to enjoy together and learn a lot more about growing stuff.
They loved being in the garden and cooking.
Been brilliant and showing children how to behave in a garden. Loved the bread and curry.
Girls help daddy in the garden/veg patch more now. Kerra helps in the kitchen with me now.
All three of my children have enjoyed the experience. The people have helped with the kids too.
What hasn’t worked so well?
All went well
Timings of the cooking - too long for kids to wait around at the end of a long day.
Very ‘exotic’ meals. It was good to try but not everything was sampled by the children.
Nothing its been great.
Nothing we’ve had fun.
What have you learned about vegetable growing and cooking?
Learned about a few different vegetables and how to cook with them.
A lot of really interesting things.
Planting is easy when you know how. We will definitely plant some pots with vegetables. Nice to have fresh veg from the garden.
Been great to see recipes for vegetables.
Nothing new to be honest but we have thoroughly enjoyed every session.
I tried to dig up a big strawberry plant and trying new fruit and veg.
Do you think taking part will influence your family’s eating choices?
I really hope so. Lucas and Felix loved doing the fruit and veg kebabs.
We cook everything from scratch already but its good to get new ideas.
Definitely we have started eating healthier.
Yes still need to get Ethan to eat more veg but I definitely think this has helped.
No Ajay is a bit fussy with his food and is reluctant to try new foods.
Will try making bread at home.
Do you think you will be inspired to grow your own veg or join the community garden?
I might attempt to grow a few at home in pots.
I’ve just joined
Yes we have a tiny garden but going to grow potatoes, onions and herbs.
We already have a large vegetable patch and will continue to get the kids more involved with the growing and cooking.
Definitely – made a square planter at home and will encourage the children to join in more.
Responses from individual children and sometimes several children at once.
Liked digging and picking.
Gardening more than cooking which was more chopping than cooking.
Tried pineapple for the first time.
Tried rocket for the first time.
Can’t wait to eat the strawberries they planted.
Helen – liked digging.
The children went through all the different things they made trying to remember them all.
The bread making and eating was a big hit.
Worked well – parents’ knife skills have increased and confidence has increased. Children react well to aromas of food. The engagement has been very good and the parents are getting involved and asking questions. The little cooking tricks have worked well like picking chives and then tying the beans with them before steaming them. Using the herbs from the garden for a bouquet garni. The anticipation of what the food is going to be like when it is cooked.
Not so well – doing individual cooking – now individual preparations and a group dish. Sometimes the sessions ran on because of waiting for the food to be cooked and dished up. It would be better if there was more to harvest in the garden to cook straight away. However we have had the situation where the families are cooking a vegetable that they have just sown in the garden so they can see the link.
Worked well - good to see the age ranges interacting with each other. Had to adapt ideas to different ages. ‘The message has been really powerful’ ‘not really sure how much of an impact it has had on what the children are actually eating.’ Impacted on confidence with some individual children who wouldn’t attend after school clubs at all before this one. Flexibility in terms of who comes – families helping each other out with small children is positive. Helping older ones develop their initiative has been a real success. ‘In the next group there are a couple of older children so its like well how do I get them to take responsibility as well.’ Giving people in the community a positive perception of the school. It has been good to see everybody working together to achieve one thing. In response to a helper saying to the teacher at the school that its very adventurous and we are packing a lot in ‘You are going from the earth to the plate and that isn’t a five minute journey is it really’ ‘That connection is really clear’
Not so well – time pressure in the kitchen – but this has been managed well and adapted to make the most out of the time such as preparing some things in advance.
Community Garden members
Worked well - team working: planning was good and sessions were generally well-prepared and organised (even if it didn't always seem that way!). As time went by - with the experience gained - we learned which activities the children respond best to, and this helped us to plan content, and increased participation/engagement I think. I can't think of any activity they didn't engage with. They particularly enjoyed getting 'in amongst' the soil, which I didn't expect. Collaboration with the school, and the cookery team, worked very well. Attendance was very good. The children and families learned many gardening skills - and cookery skills. Their awareness of healthy eating has been substantially enhanced. The children behaved and responded very well. The kitchen at the Methodist Hall provided an excellent facility. The timespans for both the garden activities and the cookery sessions were about right. The bid was very well written. Very good resources i.e. tools, the polytunnel. The Facebook page and blog were quite successful. Some good photos. Several families have signed up for the community garden.
The relationship and the communication with the school has worked really well and the commitment from senior management though Chris. Michael going into school and introducing the project filled up the two courses, that was very effective. It has grabbed people’s attention and enthusiasm. The fact that nobody has dropped out, we expected at least one or two. The flexibility in how the sessions are run has worked well. Plans have been altered week to week because we have simplified it. The fact that two families have already joined the garden. Some people in the community garden were negative about opening up the garden and strangers coming in but now they are quite happy and have responded very positively to the documentation blog and Facebook page.
Not so well - it seemed that the project didn't fully attract the participant profile intended - '...Obesity Profile (February 2014) reception aged children in Brampton the levels are relatively high' - but I can't see any way of changing this, and there is no doubt whatsoever of the benefits to those families who did take part. It probably wasn't the best time of year for a gardening project i.e. late Winter/pre-Spring, as things were rather slow to get started and grow, but at the same time that's an important educational fact - and there was of course some good growth in the polytunnel - we were lucky to have that. I hope they will have the opportunity to come back in a few weeks' time to see how their outside plantings such as potatoes and beans are progressing. Time was often tight - sometimes we ran out of it - but it meant that the children were always busy and engaged. Not to detract the very good efforts made - but recording eg photos, video, could probably have been better, or more coordinated - it would benefit from someone being separately assigned with this role. The recipe book idea hasn't yet come to anything, but there is still the opportunity.
It has been a new thing for the community garden so the initial reaction from some of the members was not positive when the idea of applying for funding to do the project was mooted. So perhaps the community garden should in future make it more obvious that the garden was set up with an inclusive community ethos when people sign up so that it is not mistakenly considered to be more like a gardening club. It was difficult to get the garden to respond quickly in the five weeks because of the time of year that we started, but actually that wasn’t the most important thing because it was just getting out there and digging and as long as they understand the process. We underestimated how long it would take all the little ones to get to the Methodist hall from the garden and had to adapt our timings to accommodate that journey more. Some of the children were not being offered the food they had prepared when they got home so they were not necessarily seeing the connection between the cooking and tasting.
Evaluator Observations after the first block
It was clear from my observations that the first five sessions had worked very well. This was also confirmed by the evaluation questionnaires and interviews.
It became obvious that parents were not standing back as much as the sessions progressed. Some parents seemed to see it as something for the children that they were accompanying them to. This changed a bit over the course it became more of a joint thing. It would be good to plan to actively involve the parents – give them their own jobs to do.
The evaluation comment from the children about more chopping than cooking was interesting. Knife skills are very important particularly for the parents but not that interesting for all the children.
Gardening after school is a release for the children and parents alike and it seems a shame to shorten those sessions in favour of cooking. Perhaps the cooking could sometimes be more of a tasting session with a demonstration by Michael.
There seems to be a recognition that just getting the children involved more is positive. Setting time aside to do this rather than trying to do it on a busy day. Some parents reported that they had not involved the children much with cooking before but had been surprised at how capable and enthusiastic they were. Different recipes with a range of skills as in the kebabs and dips has been important.
One function of the project has been that parents have seen their children in a different light. Because the activities were cooking and gardening, both of which might be done at home, the parents could see how their children would cope or react to those tasks in the home environment. One parent remarked that at the beginning she was nervous of letting the children help to cook and in particular use knives but became aware of how capable they were and that with supervision it was something they enjoyed greatly. Also the same family who had a large vegetable patch of their own hadn’t previously got the children involved but now were determined to make time and space for them in the garden because they were so enthusiastic. These were children who I recorded singing ‘I’m doing it I’m doing it’ to themselves as they were digging a trench for potatoes, their delight was infectious.
I observed another parent consciously standing back from the cooking process and worried that she was not getting much out of the activity, however she later remarked that she never cooked with her children because she found she was too controlling and it frustrated her. I could see she was helping her son have his own space. At one point he was being shown by the chef how to chop a celeriac and it was clear how much he enjoyed it and that he was naturally very dexterous with a knife. His Mum’s surprise and pride in his abilities prompted her to say that she needed to let him cook more at home.
The final cookery session of the first block was taken up with a preparation and tasting session. Michael had pre-prepared some food and left some assembly to the families such as putting together the apple turnovers or mixing a dip. In between activity families talked to me about the project and filled out questionnaires.
In the days after, all the team members met at the school to discuss the way forward, make any adjustments and plan a final event. Activities were adjusted because of the inclusion of slightly older siblings and any issues that came up in the evaluation interviews were discussed and acted upon. It was decided that there would be a joint event at the garden on the final session where all the participants would come together for a barbeque after taking part in some gardening tasks. This was because the first group had planted quite a lot of seeds which they didn’t see come to fruition and also that they had enjoyed the project so much they were keen to get together again in the garden and see how it had developed. There was also a lot of enthusiasm for the idea of celebrating what all concerned had achieved.
The issue of legacy was also discussed. All concerned expressed a wish to develop more projects together through cooking, gardening in school or creating an art project around the sustainable use of resources whilst linking with other local organisations such as the Brampton Food Network, Sustainable Brampton and Brampton and Beyond Community Trust.
The group at their final gardening session
The second 5-week block
The second group were very lively and enthusiastic with lots of energy and chatter in the garden. The activities were organized in exactly the same way as for the first group with small adjustments made to timings, cooking schedules, and garden activities to take account of what worked well in the first block and also what needed doing in the garden.
The group were unanimously positive about the project from start to finish. Parents were very involved right from the start. It was particularly noted how positive it was that pre school children could come with their older siblings thus removing the need for childcare and therefore any barriers to attending. The delivery team were confident that their planning and strategies were working and the word had spread around the school about how enjoyable the project had been. Community garden members had responded very positively to the blog posts and the Facebook posts with one member visiting with her grandchildren who wanted to stay and take part. There was also a visit from Border TV organized by Heather. They made a very good piece about the project and broadcast it on the evening news. (A link to this film is included at the beginning of the report) This was an excellent boost to the garden and the school as well as publicizing the project.
At the end of the sessions I asked the families of group 2 to fill out evaluation questionnaires. Their responses were brief but unequivocal. Answers to questions were as follows:
What has worked well for you and your children?
The whole project. It has been fantastic
All of it!! They have really enjoyed the experience and learned a lot about food and gardening.
Working together with others and gaining knowledge.
Learning new things.
Everything. The kids loved all the hands on cooking and gardening.
The short activities worked well and the variety of food we cooked.
The family aspect of doing it all together.
(nothing hadn’t worked well – all the responses were positive)
What have you learned about vegetable growing and cooking?
A fair bit actually especially how easy it is to grow herbs for your own use.
We are certainly growing more at home; herbs and other plants. We have been making bread and enjoy cooking together. Very inspired!
We have learned about what goes well with what/new veg recipes and how and what to plant where.
I tried some recipes I might not have cooked before.
To be a lot more adventurous.
Do you think taking part will influence your family’s eating choices?
A lot, we will eat healthier.
Yes we have already had the broccoli crumble again twice!
We have always enjoyed eating fruit and veg but the boys are more willing to try a wider range of veg now!
Yes especially summer meals – different types of salads etc.
Do you think you will be inspired to grow your own veg or join the community garden?
Yes definitely going to see about it, especially the herb garden.
Yes we are inspired. Thank you for a wonderful opportunity.
Definitely and we are going to join the garden.
Yep defo : )
We have started growing lots of different things at home since starting the project.
In the case of the delivery team I asked different questions at the end of the project. Below are the community garden members’ answers. No further comments were received from the other project partners.
Describe how you found the experience of working with all the different groups involved in the project - LLCG (Heather and Keith), Brampton Juniors (Chris), the Chefs (Michael and Rebecca) Parents and children.
It was a very positive experience. The involvement of different people and groups enriched the experience. There was a real team spirit.
It was a good team. Each took responsibility and did it well. There was lots of planning between Keith and Heather as equals. The worries that some members of the garden had at the beginning about destroying the peace of the garden and too much produce being taken were not realized and everyone was very supportive. The project has built a good relationship with the school. It is sometimes difficult for the school to be involved with community organisations because of curriculum and staffing constraints. There is discussion about gardeners going in to school to help with the school garden. Michael the chef has begun to work with the school running an after school cookery club.
What is your over all impression of how the participants responded to the project?
They came back for more, week after week! I would say that's testimony that the project was enjoyable, rewarding and valuable to them. I was ever surprised at how the children, both older ones and younger ones, applied themselves to the work and activities. I thought the biggest success was probably the cookery sessions.
There was lots of enthusiasm. The snacks were good – they all ate the fruit and veg.
What have you gained from the project personally and in terms of your organisation?
I enjoyed contributing to a very valuable community project.
A realisation that two people was necessary to run the gardening workshops. I had thought that it would work with one. We learned to drop plans and have things in reserve. We learned this through getting to know the groups. Seeing the children and parents picking dandelions in the sunshine on the last day and being happy to do so. The positive family aspect has been very important for the community garden. Several families have joined. The final session all coming together was very important.
What would you like to see happen now?
Run it again in future - it's a formula that works. Could be extended to other schools or community groups. It would also work with secondary school age group.
I would like to see families come down to the garden regularly. I would like to see a follow on project happen soon to make the most of the momentum. It would have been even better if the head teacher come just once to see what was happening at the sessions to have spread the word in the school and therefore the community. I think simplifying the cooking worked and making the link to the garden clearer – the pizza was a good example of this and the children enjoyed the construction.
Conclusions and Recommendations
I would suggest that through the fulfillment of the healthy weight aims as outlined in the grant application, the project has subtly but effectively supported weight control as an aim where applicable. It is impossible to measure the impact on obesity after a very short project like this. Changing habits is a long term goal but there is no doubt that this project has started that process for all concerned whether they were part of the ‘target group’ or not. This comment by one of the community gardeners - ‘it seemed that the project didn't fully attract the participant profile intended - '...Obesity Profile (February 2014) reception aged children in Brampton the levels are relatively high' - but I can't see any way of changing this, and there is no doubt whatsoever of the benefits to those families who did take part.’, is an important one to make, because one of the strengths of the project was its focus on healthy eating and lifestyle choices for everyone.
Comments made after the first block of sessions were acted upon such as the waiting time issue for the very youngest children after the cookery sessions and the comment about ‘exotic meals’ putting children off trying new foods. Things were simplified and there were no issues raised by the second group. It was pointed out by all the project team that their flexibility in delivering the workshops was important to their success.
The preceding report outlines what the project was, how it was delivered, the responses of all concerned and any adjustments that had to be made to maintain the quality of what was a very well conceived programme. Furthermore by dealing with each of the project aims separately it is clear that this has been a very successful project. The aims were addressed as follows:
To encourage healthy lifestyle choices in the participants and their families through the experience of growing and cooking food.
The participants were almost unanimous in their affirmation of this aim. One participant felt that the project had not encouraged her son to be less fussy and that it was difficult for her to find the time to garden at home, which re-iterates the point that changing habits takes time and crucially, support.
To raise awareness of the Community Garden in the area and target young families as new members.
There is now a new group of people in Brampton who have had a positive experience of the community garden. Three families have joined the garden and one has become a member of an allotment association in the town. The film shown on Border News and the Facebook page and blogs have publicized the garden with hits on the Facebook page from interested parties all over the country. Crucially as pointed out in one evaluation interview, it is the relationships with parents and families who have participated which has widened the net of interested parties and which helps create a positive community.
To develop an active relationship with the primary school.
This worked very well throughout the project. The teacher was fully involved and committed to every session - the project would not have worked without his enthusiastic teamwork. The added commitment to healthy eating by the school through their new after school club with Michael the chef is testament to how effective the project message was. There are plans underway for a joint follow on from Dig for Dinner looking at sustainability, which may involve the community garden but will certainly include gardening and garden members.
To encourage speaking and listening especially for the younger children.
This aim is captured by a statement in an evaluation interview with Chris Armstrong the school deputy head.
‘Our whole school priority is to do with writing and we feel that a lot of that can be underpinned by talk. In the garden there is a lot of language there is a lot of opportunity for talk. It does feed into writing because we have got Angus doing his blog so that came out of it as well.’
In my observations at the garden and kitchen I could see that the children were learning lots of new words and really extending their vocabulary not just for nouns but for expressive language when communicating a particular aspect of the project such as how soil felt or how a herb smelt or how something tasted. Conversation between parents, children and the project team was integral to making the workshops successful. Explanations and questions were a necessary part of the process.
When Border TV came to make their film the children were interviewed on camera with a microphone, which was potentially quite intimidating for them and not something the parents wanted to take part in. However as a learning experience it was confidence building for the ones who took part. One girl in particular received a lot of praise from family and friends for her interview.
Despite having fulfilled all the aims of the project and the healthy weight agenda, this was a finite programme with a very small reach. It gave a taster to the people who volunteered to come along but more support needs to be given to change attitudes in the long term. It could be argued that to capitalize on the work already done and the compelling evidence that this kind of project contributes positively to a healthy lifestyle, more people need to be offered the opportunity to become involved. This might need to be a dedicated garden structured around working with different groups. However, the formula of physical exercise associated with gardening, the social aspect of being involved in a community garden, the increased access to healthy food and learning how to cook with fresh ingredients is one that fulfills a community need.