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A new book for primary school children that uses poetry to help simplify the science behind Northern Ireland farming and food for health and wellbeing, has just been made available to every primary school in Northern Ireland.

Grace and Robert Wilson (Age 8 and 7), Muckamore, Co. Antrim, with Josephine Kelly, Acting CEO of AFBI who launched the science-based and curriculum-linked educational resource ‘Northern Ireland: Our Food, Our Story’ for all Northern Ireland Primary Schools, along with the book’s author Dr. Vanessa Woods (centre) and project partners L-R Gerard McGivern (Chairman, LMC); Joe McDonald (ASDA); Danielle McBride (White’s Oats); Liam McCarthy (ABP); David Wright (Irish Farmers Journal); Josephine Kelly (Acting CEO, AFBI); Ian Stevenson (CEO, LMC); Liam Woulfe (CEO, Grassland Agro) and Eileen Hall (Owner, Cavanagh Free Range Eggs)
Grace and Robert Wilson (Age 8 and 7), Muckamore, Co. Antrim, with Josephine Kelly, Acting CEO of AFBI who launched the science-based and curriculum-linked educational resource ‘Northern Ireland: Our Food, Our Story’ for all Northern Ireland Primary Schools, along with the book’s author Dr. Vanessa Woods (centre) and project partners L-R Gerard McGivern (Chairman, LMC); Joe McDonald (ASDA); Danielle McBride (White’s Oats); Liam McCarthy (ABP); David Wright (Irish Farmers Journal); Josephine Kelly (Acting CEO, AFBI); Ian Stevenson (CEO, LMC); Liam Woulfe (CEO, Grassland Agro) and Eileen Hall (Owner, Cavanagh Free Range Eggs)

‘Northern Ireland: Our Food, Our Story’ is written through the medium of poetry, accompanied by beautiful colourful illustrations. While the book is primarily aimed at children aged 4-12 via this particular schools project, it is also targeted at adults. The science-based and curriculum-linked educational resource is presented in a way that is accessible and engaging for children and covers a wide range of topics such as food nutrients, sustainability, traceability, soil health, grass-fed food, greenhouse gases and carbon sequestration, biodiversity, PGI, PDO, the importance of a balanced diet, dental health, farm safety and Northern Irish culture.  

The book was written by Dr. Vanessa Woods, a scientist and consumer engagement professional who is focused on informing and educating consumers of all ages about the story of sustainable and nutrient dense food grown by farmers, underpinned by world-class science, and the importance of collaboration across the food value chain, adopting a ‘One Health’ approach to communication. 

Commenting on the launch of ‘Northern Ireland: Our Food, Our Story’’, Josephine Kelly, Acting CEO of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute and partner in this project, said: “AFBI is delighted to be involved in this schools project as it brings the story of farming, food, culture and health to our young people in an imaginative way. We are particularly pleased that the book is curriculum linked, as it is important that we educate our primary school children on the important role that food plays in human health and how crucial it is in this era of climate change that we produce our food sustainably”. 

Now living in Co. Down, Vanessa grew up on a farm and has a passion for the land and marrying the science of farming, food and health. She holds a BSc in Microbiology from NUI Galway and a PhD in Animal Nutrition from University College Dublin. She has also served as CEO of Agri Aware, the independent agri-food education body; as a senior scientist with the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute; and she delivered lectures at Queens University Belfast. Vanessa was also appointed as the first Chair of Examiners for the GCSE in Agriculture and Land Use in Northern Ireland, working with the Council for Curriculum Examinations and Assessment. She also works with the European Commission as an evaluator of Horizon Europe funding proposals and holds a European Communications Award for ‘Communication to the public’.  In 2018, she founded Vanessa B. Woods Communications, the first Science Communications Consultancy on the Island of Ireland, with a company mission statement to ‘communicate complex science simply’ and a vision to ‘marry the science of farming, food and health’, working both B2B and B2C.

Vanessa says she wrote ‘Northern Ireland: Our Food, Our Story’ to help encourage science-based discussion on food nutrients, healthy eating and the green climate agenda in primary schools and homes across Northern Ireland: “Farmers grow high quality nutritious food which consumers require for health. We are often guilty of treating food as a commodity because it can be more plentiful nowadays. Nutrient-dense food contains more nutrients (e.g., protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals, etc.) than calories. If consumers don’t eat the essential nutrients, health is compromised, and nobody wants that”. 

Sister and brother, Grace and Robert Wilson (Age 8 and 7), Muckamore, Co. Antrim at the launch of the science-based and curriculum-linked educational resource ‘Northern Ireland: Our Food, Our Story’ for all Northern Ireland Primary Schools, with its author Dr. Vanessa Woods
Sister and brother, Grace and Robert Wilson (Age 8 and 7), Muckamore, Co. Antrim at the launch of the science-based and curriculum-linked educational resource ‘Northern Ireland: Our Food, Our Story’ for all Northern Ireland Primary Schools, with its author Dr. Vanessa Woods

“The work of farmers is underpinned by science as they seek to become more sustainable. ‘Northern Ireland: Our Food, Our Story’ is the first step in delivering science-based messages to children, their teachers and parents by telling the story of sustainable and nutritious food and its importance for good dental health, human health and wellbeing. Understanding the nutrient density of food and nutritional sustainability will assist consumers in forming a shopping list for important nutrients (e.g., shopping for calcium, iron, protein, minerals, vitamins, etc.). UK households waste on average £700 per year by throwing food away. We all have a role to play in delivering sustainable food production systems-starting with the soil on our farms, right through to the kitchen table in every single home. Consumers and farmers have a natural partnership and as with all successful partnerships, relevant and effective communication is key”. 

‘Northern Ireland: Our Food, Our Story’ has just been delivered to school principals in all primary schools across Northern Ireland with the support of Key Partners: ABP; ASDA; Cavanagh Free Range Eggs; Deansgrange Dental Clinic; Grassland Agro; Irish Farmers Journal; Livestock and Meat Commission; White’s Oats; and Partners: Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute and Northern Ireland Fish Producers’ Organisation. 

Danielle Mc Bride, Brand Manager, White’s Oats said ‘’We are delighted to partner on the launch of ‘Northern Ireland: Our Food Our Story’, inspiring the next generation in understanding where their food comes from and the importance of a food first approach for health and wellbeing’’.

This novel curriculum-linked book is suitable for all primary school classes. It can be used by teachers and their students for years to come, starting this coming September when the children return to school.

‘Northern Ireland: Our Food, Our Story’ can also be ordered online at:VBWOODSCOMMUNICATIONS.COM

George Mullan, Managing Director of ABP in Northern Ireland, said “We are delighted to support this great initiative. It is a fitting way to promote the important role that agriculture plays in Northern Ireland and Vanessa’s book is an ideal showcase to tell this story to younger audiences”.

LMC Chief Executive, Ian Stevenson, commented, “We are delighted to be supporting the publication and distribution of ‘Northern Ireland: Our Food, Our Story’ to every primary school across Northern Ireland. The book is expertly written in the form of simple and informative poetry, which will be a great educational resource for primary school pupils as they learn the important story behind our farming and food and its connection to culture and health. As an organisation, LMC has been actively involved in the educational arena for over 20 years carrying out hundreds of cookery demonstrations every year with beef and lamb in post-primary schools across Northern Ireland and this exciting book launch and distribution is a natural extension of important learning about our world-class food into primary schools”.

Food display at the launch of the science-based and curriculum-linked educational resource ‘Northern Ireland: Our Food, Our Story’ for all Northern Ireland Primary Schools, with its author Dr. Vanessa Woods
The food display at the launch of the science-based and curriculum-linked educational resource ‘Northern Ireland: Our Food, Our Story’ for all Northern Ireland Primary Schools, with its author Dr. Vanessa Woods

David Wright, NI Editor, Irish Farmers Journal, said “The Irish Farmers Journal is delighted to partner with this important educational initiative. The agri-food industry is vital to the economy of Northern Ireland and will play a key role in our future as we collectively tackle important issues such as climate change. Our industry is open and welcoming to all our young people, and keen to communicate the many positive aspects of our countryside and rural life. Engaging the next generation in the high quality nutritious food that is grown on our farms is also important”.

Harry Wick, CEO of Northern Ireland Fish Producers’ Organisation, said “Northern Ireland’s Fishermen harvest some of the world’s most sustainable, top quality seafood and we are delighted to take this opportunity to introduce the next generation to the fantastic produce we have right on our doorstep”.

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