JB Gill: Knowing where our food comes from is so important
Growing up in urban South London, boyband star JB Gill never imagined he’d end up living on a farm. But his Caribbean roots gave him an early appreciation of the journey of food from earth, field or ocean to plate.
“I spent some of my early years in the Caribbean and I’ve still got family there so go back periodically, and one of the things I appreciate when I’m there is you know where your food is coming from,” says Gill, who rose to fame with JLS after taking part in 2008’s The X Factor, and set up his Kent farm with wife Chloe, 32, in 2013 (they’ve documented their adventures on TV’s Down On The Farm too, as well as other shows).
“It is changing a little bit, going more the supermarket route, which of course is the main way we buy our food now. But you’ll know the farmers, you’ll know the guy who grows the sugar cane, you’ll know the fisherman who catches snapper – and you can only get it when they have it, it’s as simple as that.”
Gill, 34, believes having a deeper “understanding and appreciation” for where food comes from plays an important part in how we approach looking after the health of the planet, as well as our own health. It’s one of the joys of farm life for Gill and Chloe, who have two kids – Ace, six, and two-year-old Chiara.
“When they were younger, especially Ace, from a very young age we would take him out to the chickens and pigs, and the turkeys when they came onto the farm. It gives them an additional understanding and boosts their relationship with food,” says Gill.
Of course, not everyone lives in the countryside or has access to farms – but Gill is keen to help spread this message “across the board. It’s not just about children becoming farmers. For me, regardless of what they do as they get older, their appreciation and understanding of food is really important.”
Making food fun
It’s why he’s “honoured” to be an ambassador for the new Organix ‘Good for Planet. Good for Me’ campaign. The children’s food brand has joined forces with the JLS star and The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) to create a series of week-by-week programmes packed with recipes and activities, as a fun way to engage youngsters with eating more fruit and veg.
The programmes will be available via the NDNA website to support over 300,000 nursery school kids across the UK throughout May, plus parents, guardians and caregivers can find the info and activities on Organix’s website.
Organix surveyed 1,000 parents of kids up to age four, and found over half (55%) are getting less than half of the recommended daily five-a-day, and one-fifth (20%) are only getting one portion of fruit and veg a day. Parents are trying – often very hard – but it can be a stressful process. Organix’s research also found one in three parents admit they give up trying to get little ones to try new foods, for fear of upsetting them.
Like all parents, Gill knows this can be a tricky topic and some kids are pickier eaters than others. “My boy would eat literally everything – you could at least get him to try most things, even if he didn’t like it. We had him eating mussels, olives, all sorts, and although my daughter has her moments with adventure when it comes to food, she doesn’t enjoy food and it is a real challenge sometimes trying to get food into her,” Gill admits. “Especially when you’ve got lots of other stuff going on and you’ve had a long day.”
They have a ‘try everything once’ policy, he says, and focus on the importance of having a balanced diet – so nothing’s off limits, but plenty of variety is key. Time in the kitchen preparing food together is also cherished, says Gill, who has fond memories of cooking with his own mum growing up.
Plus, torturous tear-filled dinner times are no fun for anyone, so adding some fun and adventure and engaging kids in ways that work for them is another of Gill’s top tips.
It’s not all about the dinner table
“The best time to introduce new food isn’t always at the dinner table or when you’re having your main meal. And you know what children are like, especially when they’re really young, if you put something on their plate, they’re not interested! But if you’ve just got it on your plate, they want to have it – they’re just so much more interested in what’s on your plate.
“Try and move it away from dinner time. There are lots of activities you can do [in the campaign packs], fun songs they can sing – loads of different things for them to try, within that rainbow of trying different fruit and vegetables,” Gill adds.
JB Gill is ambassador for Organix new healthy eating campaign ‘Good for planet. Good for me’, that incorporates songs, games, recipes and indoor and outdoor activities to help young children eat a wider range of fruit and veggies. Visit organix.com/goodforme.