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Environmental Education

Volume 659: debated on Thursday 9 May 2019

4. What steps his Department is taking to promote awareness of the environment and food production among young people. (910779)

Young people are at the heart of this year’s Year of Green Action. We are working with the Department for Education on the £10 million flagship children and nature programme, which supports children from disadvantaged backgrounds to give them better access to the natural environment. We work closely with the DFE to promote awareness of pathways into food and farming careers.

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. One of my constituents, Tom Martin, has set up a fantastic initiative called FaceTime a Farmer, which enables pupils to engage with agricultural and rural issues in the classroom via a video link with farmers out in their fields. Will the Minister join me in congratulating Tom on spearheading this brilliant initiative, and would he be interested in a meeting to learn more about it?

I would certainly like to thank Mr Martin and farmers like him for all the hard work they put into such initiatives. FaceTime a Farmer is an exciting initiative to help children to engage with farming and get a better understanding of where their food comes from, and I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend and Mr Martin.

Will the Minister pass on my congratulations to the Secretary of State on his decision to meet young people to talk about climate change? Unfortunately, the meeting this week had to be postponed for fully understandable reasons. Lola Chirico and 14 others were disappointed not to be able to meet the Secretary of State, because they want to talk about climate change with him. Lola Chirico is my granddaughter.

The Secretary of State is sitting here, so I do not need to pass that on. It is certainly important that young people are leading the way, and I think that many of us are perhaps slightly embarrassed that we have been so slow off the mark. Going back to what my hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Tom Pursglove) said, it is important that young people should be aware of how their food is produced and where it comes from and of the seasonality in this country so that they can understand when different foods are in season. If they buy foods that are in season, they will be able to reduce the carbon footprint of the food they purchase.

With an increase in the urbanised society and media, I am sure that my hon. Friend would agree that the education of our young across all parts of our communities is very important. Against that backdrop, will he welcome and add whatever support he can give to Open Farm Sunday, which is a golden opportunity for young people to see agriculture in tooth and claw?

Having attended a number of Open Farm Sunday events in my constituency, I can commend it and I hope that more farmers will contribute to it so that more young people, particularly those from urban areas who do not understand agriculture and the hard work that goes into producing the food they consume, can attend those events. Perhaps not so much food would be wasted if people understood how much hard work was put into producing it.

Palm oil is an essential component of much of our food production, but unsustainable palm oil production across south-east Asia is wrecking a lot of natural forests. Will the Government join me in congratulating Chester Zoo on its sustainable palm oil campaign? What support can they give to that campaign?

The Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey), who is sitting next to me, is visiting that tomorrow, and we are all certainly aware of the environmental impact of palm oil. There is a perfectly good alternative, in the form of British rapeseed oil, which is produced in places such as Yorkshire and East Anglia.