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Old hands, young minds

An intergenerational plot has been hatched in two education action zones to get the healthy eating message across to pupils in 14 primary schools.

Children in two neighbouring authorities are being given lessons by a group of elderly gardeners who have volunteered to show them how to grow fruit and vegetables.

The volunteers, recruited by Age Concern, are working to construct allotment areas in each of the 14 schools in South Tyneside and Gateshead to promote the "5-a-day" message.

The volunteers, mostly aged 50 plus, have been given training by nutritionists and by teachers in how to tell children why they should eat five portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

"The schools involved are situated in very urban areas and few of the children will have had the opportunity to work in a garden," said Roselle Oberholzer, who co-ordinates the project. It is called Digging Deep to Deliver Five-a-day.

"The volunteers will be able to show them how to grow things in the hope that it will increase their awareness and change their perceptions about these foods."

As well as teaching youngsters about food, the project also aims to bridge the generation gap. Jeff Usher, the Ageing Well co-ordinator for Age Concern in Gateshead, said it is part of a wider "trans-age" programme designed to bring old and young together.

"Older people have life experiences, interests, passions and hobbies which they can share with children," he said. "As well as helping the children learn, it helps them to remain physically and mentally active ."

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