Industry, the farming community and government need to act now to reconnect consumers, especially children, with the countryside and re-create a food culture in Britain.
Sadly, over the past few decades, young people have lost touch with where their food comes from and why it is important. The consequences of this are manifold: poor diets and sedentary lifestyles, leading to obesity and social exclusion.
Statistics show a more urbanised society where children are becoming disconnected with their food and where it is grown. Almost half of 7 to 11-year-olds have no involvement with growing food and for a quarter of them, being "in the countryside" just means driving through it.
If we act now, we can play a vital role in tackling these issues and help children and adults make more informed choices in the future. We can embed an appreciation of food and farming back into our national DNA and produce a generation of consumers who are passionate about food and the countryside.
The good news is that children have an appetite for learning more about food and where it comes from. More than a third of 11 to 16-year-olds want to find out more about how their food is produced. Visits to farms are also popular among the lower age groups - 95% of seven to 11-year-olds who had been on a farm enjoyed it.
The Year of Food and Farming, which officially launches this September, is a programme that aims to give pupils direct experience of the food chain and the countryside, working with schools to re-capture children's imagination about food and create memorable learning experiences they will carry with them as they start to make their own food decisions.
The year is designed to generate a powerful and influential impact by pulling together the existing programmes and activities and extend their reach so food and farming become a stimulating way to enrich the curriculum. Pupils from more than 20,000 schools will be offered hands-on learning experiences based on three core areas: visits, growing experiences and cooking food.
Many individuals and organisations are already doing excellent work but the coverage is not wide enough.Even though not every retailer and food producer will be able to open its doors to the public, everyone involved in the industry can play a role - from hosting classroom activities to providing pupils with recipe kits and ingredients. The year will also provide co-ordination of policies from three government departments.
Engaging curriculum materials are being updated and developed by a number of partners, including education charity Farming and Countryside Education (FACE). Working groups at national and regional levels are driving the programme forward, alongside other organisations who have pledged their support. The campaign needs the support of everyone in the supply chain.
The aim is that by 2010 a generation of young people will have first-hand experience of how their food is produced - growing and preparing ingredients themselves, and having much healthier diets. By directly engaging young people rather than criticising their food choices, we will have shaped the future food decisions of millions of young consumers.
Anyone who wishes to get involved with Year of Food and Farming can find more information at www.yearoffoodandfarming.org.uk, or by contacting email@example.com
Sir Don Curry is a member of the London Food Board