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Leaders for Change in the driving seat

By Maddie Sinclair, Research Assistant, Sustainable and health food for children

After a few months of waiting due to Covid, we were delighted to finally welcome our Leaders for Change to Spark: York for a day of activities about food and climate change, and to empower them as agents of change within their schools and communities. As the schools arrived, there were flurries of excited comments about Spark’s funky new decorations – think neon meets jungle – as well as the unexpected environment of transformed storage containers that make up the venue.

As we’d hoped, pupils from different schools were immediately happy to engage with one another. They were firstly tasked with prioritising what makes a good school by choosing from factors such as free school meals, availability of drinking water and vegetarian/vegan options at lunch. This ignited a lot of discussion, and encouraged pupils to chat about what currently happens in their schools, and for some to proudly share what they’ve been actively campaigning for. We all got a chance to hear more about these when pupils took it in turns to bravely introduce themselves and their schools to the whole room. With ages ranging from 12 to 18, we were slightly reserved about a whole group activity, but the young people did a fantastic job at keeping everyone engaged.

During the first joint task, we were blown away by their knowledge around greenhouse gases and food miles when the “TakeABite” team tasked groups of pupils with ranking food by their carbon emissions. This flowed nicely into the lunch break, where pupils spread themselves across tables around Spark, equipped with Climate Food flashcards from TakeABite to look at the carbon emissions of their own packed lunches. Teachers took a physical deck of the cards back to their schools, so we hope they’ve been able to make good use of them in their own activities!

Our afternoon’s rotation of three activities offered an insight into the variety of what Leaders for Change can involve – exploring the urban vertical farm, creating a 1-minute elevator pitch to campaign about a chosen food issue, and designing logos for Leaders for Change branding, as well as reflecting on their participation in the group. It was fantastic to watch the young people engage and tune into their passions across the different parts of the afternoon. Whether that was investigating their green treasure of cuttings from the vertical farm, articulating at the imaginary PM about improving the school food curriculum, or silently sketching away at a thoughtful logo.

Here are a few quotes from the day…

“I want to have a positive impact that does more than just work inside a school, and can influence change for the future”

“I believe that educating young people about what is good and bad for the environment is very important”

“I am interested in making the planet more sustainable for the future generations and to save animals habitats”

A huge thank you to the pupils, teachers, FixOurFood team and government representatives for helping to make the day go so smoothly. We were so glad that the young people and teachers enjoyed themselves. We really look forward to continuing our engagement with Leaders for Change.