“Supermarkets: indispensible time-savers for modern living or destroyers of urban and rural communities and the local business at their heart?”
This was the start of the RSA Resourceful Supermarket brief, which is a very valid point. Supermarkets are shaping the way we eat, now more than ever they seem to be more like superstores located on every urban high street. There are seven major chains of supermarkets in the UK alone. And with this a whole new breed of convenience stores have begun to grow, Tesco express and Sainsbury’s local to name but a few. Perfect for the busy commuter to pop in and buy a ready-made meal on their way home.
But what if there was something these chains of supermarkets could do to assist the local communities? To change their negative reputation to something that they could be proud to support?
I wanted to explore further who exactly the ‘local community’ were. Many different types of people and professionals make up a community, from local tradesmen, doctors, teachers, parents and children. All with different needs from the supermarkets. I chose one integral part of the community to base my project on – Schools and children.
Children’s eating habits seem to rely on the time and knowledge of the guardians around them. I spoke to ten children between the ages of six and fourteen and their parents to see if I could gather a greater understanding of this. It seems that picky eaters and a lack of time for busy parents were the main reasons for buying packaged and microwaveable meals from supermarkets for their lunch or dinner.
This lack of understanding made me interested in the idea of children growing their own fruit and vegetables, possibly at their schools, or at an allotment close by. All kids love playing with mud and running around in gardens, so if I could incorporate that into growing healthy foods, such as tomatoes, carrots, lettuce and green vegetables, I felt it would give them a greater understanding of where food comes from. Heighten their interest in it by watching them grow, and therefore they may be more likely to eat healthier.
This inspired the main concept for my project. I was going to come up with a scheme, which involved schoolchildren growing fruit and vegetables and selling it in their local supermarkets. I contacted the organisation `Learning outside the classroom ́ as they do a great deal of charity work with youths. I aimed to find out more about the success of their programs, and gain feedback on my project. I also requested some information from Morrison’s about ‘Lets Grow’ a similar scheme to mine, where people save up vouchers to get gardening tools for schools. Unfortunately neither of them replied to my requests.
One consequence of selling produce grown by children in supermarkets I needed to consider was health and safety. To find out the quality requirements and standards involved in selling fresh produce in supermarkets was of upmost importance to make this project feasible. In contacting the Department for Environmental Food and Rural Affairs and a Horticultural Marketing Inspector at the Rural Payments Agency, I was informed that supermarkets all have their own individual standards they abide to. Waitrose, for example, have a very important scheme they are involved in, called the Small Producers Charter. They aim to sell locally produced food (30 mile radius of production) in their supermarkets. After researching the requirements in supplying locally produced food in Waitrose, I am confident that children would be able to grow their own food (under supervision) and supply it to supermarkets under this scheme.
My design concepts were developed into the brand ‘Kids Growing’ which includes a logo, packaging design and promotional items, such as flyers, posters and reusable shopping bags. I chose the name ‘Kids get Growing’ as it is a kind of call to action for children everywhere to get them motivated and start growing! During the logo design process, I explored many different ideas around plants and vegetables, but chose the final version as it had elements of boldness and fun, which would appeal to children and parents alike.
The handprint, which has been used in the majority of the packaging and promotional items, was an idea I had right from the beginning of the project. It occurred to me that children love painting, and as a graphic technique it demonstrates the fun personalities they have.
As the majority of my target audience is children, I once again interviewed children and parents to see whether the ‘Kids Get Growing’ scheme would be something they would like to participate in. I had some unexpected but very positive results*. It showed that nearly all of the children enjoyed eating vegetables, they had grown them before, and had a place either at school or nearby to do so. I of course took into consideration that these children are educated in more rural areas than London, although from this one could gather that children are already interested in growing food and healthy eating, which is of great functionality of the scheme. Furthermore, for research purposes, asked them to make their own drawings of fruit and vegetables and include the words ‘Kids Get Growing’, and although I did not use these drawings further, did give me insight into kids and their ideas on food.
I did find it a challenge to find a school that had the time to talk to me, but after much perseverance I did have a very short time with a primary school in London, where I talked to the Activities Manager, showed her my ideas for the project and talked her through the scheme. Their school is actually participating in Morrison’s ‘Lets Grow’ scheme, so was able to talk me through the pros and cons of such an activity for children. Space being the main disadvantage, as was supervision if it was after school or away from the school grounds, such as at an allotment. Although overall she was positive about my ideas and could see it working with the backing of a major supermarket chain.
Although I did try to get in contact with organisations and supermarkets in relation to my project, I was unable to do so. I am aware that supermarket backing is of great importance to the success of the project, and it would have been very beneficial to me and the scheme as a whole if I were able to gain feedback from one of the major chains. Knowing what I know now about liaising with major corporations such as supermarkets, and even the difficulty I had speaking to a school, in hindsight it may have been easier if I tried to contact someone at a lower level, just to gain an entry, then work my way up at a slower pace, rather than trying to contact Press Offices and Managers of supermarkets.
Even though, the feedback I have obtained has been positive, and I have learnt a great deal whilst producing the final work. I believe that the idea for the scheme, if put into practise, would be successful in promoting a healthier diet in children, and supermarkets may be able to change their reputation whilst being seen to promote the local community.
* Interviews Typed up and submitted in seperate document