The Borough Market bell signifies the official start of a trading day. On this occasion, the rope that hangs from the ceremonial bell is approached by six primary schoolchildren who, after several attempts at vertical tugging, manage to alert buyers of the bargains that await them.
For the past 10 years, during harvest season, Young Marketeers have flooded the Borough Market to sell their fresh produce as part of a campaign run by the food education charity School Food Matters. During the two days of the Harvest Sale, more than 100 children will try their hand at the trade of tradesman.
“Children need to learn essential life skills about food, they need to learn how to grow it, what to eat and how other families in their communities are what we would call ‘food insecure,” says Stephanie Slater , director general of school feeding matters.
No sooner had she finished her sentence than we were approached by Leo from St James’ Church of England primary school who asked us if we would like to visit her stand.
“Food is healthy and will make you taller,” he says. Leo is clearly a strong supporter of his own marketing strategy, as he quickly tries to buy one of the potatoes he sells with his pocket money.
All funds raised will be donated to the Felix Project, a charity the Evening Standard has worked with to redistribute unsold fresh food to those who need it most.
Zophia, Jessiphine and Chance from Holy Trinity Church of England Primary School subtly encourage me to buy the most expensive thing on their stall – a strawberry worth £ 2 – as each pound I harvest can provide six meals for ” someone who doesn’t have that much to eat, ”says Jessiphine.
Borough Market is a charitable trust and Kate Howell, its director of engagement, says the program has funded nearly 50,000 meals for vulnerable families.
“You can just see it in their faces: the pride that comes from something close to their hearts that has grown and is brought to market,” she says.
Throughout the process, from seed to display on their decorated Borough Market stalls, London’s 20 primary schools received tips from traders on how to set up their stalls and make the best sales. .
“You have to get people’s attention,” says Zainab of Cyril Jackson Elementary School. “You could give a speech or tell them about anything you sell. “
However, the difficulties of managing a profession do not escape him. “Sometimes people won’t want to buy your stuff and you just have to learn to live with it,” she said quietly.
Camilla Simon has managed the Pieminister stand at Borough Market for 20 years and has spoken to the children about running a successful business.
“They’re only small, so the whole process, from rearing the product in the field to presenting it on the plate, gives them a lot to discuss with their buyers. It will be very useful for them if they want a part-time job when they are a little older.
Jessop Elementary School even produced a cookbook urging you to put your fresh market produce to good use (at this point I’m loaded with three brown paper bags worth treats).
Using these ingredients in recipes is important so that “when you get older you are still in good shape,” says Maya.
While Radiyat included a recipe for accra, a type of donut, Karena tells me about a Japanese herb called mizuna that her mother grows at home.
“Growing food in an urban setting is seen as very hard and difficult work, but you can grow vegetables in pots, on a windowsill, or in a school garden,” says Slater. “I think the Covid-19 has really shown that there are great inequalities in access to food and health. Getting to know the Felix project is therefore a fantastic lesson.