New research from LEAF Education shows the extent young people think about sustainable food

The agri-food industry is best placed to engage, motivate and inspire 12-19-year-olds about the sector and how to get involved in it.

That’s the message from agri-education organisation LEAF Education, which has unveiled its latest research, of 2,500 young people, in partnership with McDonald’s UK and Harper Adams’ School of Sustainable Food and Farming.

While the majority of young people have not had the opportunity to learn about the agri-food industry in school (66 per cent), 75 per cent believe that agriculture and food education should play a larger part in the school curriculum.

The research looks at how much of a ‘conscious consumer’ the next generation is, with results showing that teens are keen to know and understand more, with 80 per cent wanting to learn more about sustainable food choices.

They also highlighted a trust in supermarkets and big brands to make those sustainability decisions on their behalf, before products hit the shelves or restaurants (65 per cent). Young people are now calling for a better understanding of environmental labelling – far above carbon cost, food miles and how choices they make can have a bigger impact on the climate crisis.

84 per cent of young people stated that with the right and clear information, environmental sustainability would be their number-one factor, over and above cost or convenience when purchasing food.

Educational sessions

As part of the culmination of the research, HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh joined students for the first day of a two-day residential at Harper Adams University. The Duchess took part in high-tech agri-food sessions, designed to showcase the breadth and depth of the UK’s modern agri-food industry and listened to the students’ career aspirations and understanding of sustainable food choices.

Speaking last week to confirm the next steps for industry, Beth Hart, vice president supply chain and brand trust at McDonald’s UK & Ireland, said of the findings: “Our business relies on over 23,000 British and Irish farmers to produce quality ingredients that go into our products, so ensuring a resilient and successful agri-industry is critical for both their futures and securing ours too.

”That is why we’re so passionate about engaging and inspiring the next generation who can bring fresh thinking to the sector, particularly when it comes to sustainability. We are committed to supporting LEAF Education to help us achieve this and look forward to working together to ensure these research findings inform how we make a difference.”

Positive image 

This latest research from LEAF Education shows that young people are hugely positive about the agri-food industry, with nine in 10 stating that we should all appreciate and have a better connection to where our food comes from. Some 91 per cent of young people believe our individual food choices are important in the fight against climate change.