Food Sense Wales’ Courgette Pilot has shown that schools meals represent an opportunity to boost Welsh vegetable supply chains and get more locally grown veg onto children’s plates.

The Courgette Pilot was supported by the Sustainable Food Partnership Food Cardiff and ran from April to August 2022.  It saw courgettes from Blas Gwent, a Wales-based agroecological grower, delivered to schools in Cardiff via Wales-based wholesaler, Castell Howell.

Twenty nine primary schools across Cardiff took part in the pilot and over a three-week period in July and August and nearly one tonne of courgettes was distributed.

The main courgette dishes cooked for the children were courgette and cheese bake, courgette curry and ratatouille, which were offered in addition to the normal menu to ensure that no child went hungry because of not liking courgettes.

One school chef said: “The courgette dishes today and yesterday were a lot more popular with children when they went up for second servings. They’d seen their friends eating it so wanted to have a go themselves.”

As part of the Food and Fun programme, six schools also ran cooking with courgette workshops with pupils and seven schools took part in ‘courgette art’ sessions to encourage them to try new veg. The pilot study found that these activities were fundamental to engaging children with the new veg in order to familiarise and promote them as options.

The decision to use courgettes was a pragmatic one based on the time of year and the producer starting on a new bare growing site. Courgettes is a crop which can grow easily in Wales and is available in plenty during the summer.

Speaking of the benefits of the pilot, the producer said: “I didn’t have to think about marketing my produce. I could just get on with the business of growing.”

Welsh Government is committed to rolling out free school meals to all primary school children in Wales by 2024 and this provides a fantastic opportunity to provide nutritious meals to primary school children across the nation at the same time as potentially investing in sustainable Welsh production and supply chains.

If two portions of veg were served as standard in Welsh primary schools — as recommended by Peas Please, alongside other activities to increase consumption —this action alone would help meet that target.

The pilot found that a sustainable supply chain investment scheme where local food producers supply veg to Welsh primary schools is possible and the next step would be a scaled-up pilot study with additional partners, more producers and a wider variety of products.

The ultimate vision is for every primary school meal in Wales to contain two portions of agroecologically produced Welsh Veg that would generate £15 million for Welsh producers.

To read the report in full, please click here.