New book targeted at schoolchildren looks at the science behind food and farming

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.

Saturday, 26th June 2021, 9:16 am
Sister and brother, 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, with its author Dr. Vanessa Woods
Sister and brother, 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, with its author Dr. Vanessa Woods

‘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.

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)

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.”