"Fluffy Owl, why are we going to Tesco?"
I'm always on the look out for new things we can do at, or with, Brownies. Whilst Guiding is girl-led, meaning the girls should be choosing what they want to do at Brownies, if they had their way we would play parachute games all meeting, every meeting, so they need their owls to come up with new ideas and suggestions.
My local Tesco store is a giant Extra and when I was in there a few months ago, I spotted their 'community' noticeboard by the main entrance, with lots of primary school-aged children taking part in 'Farm to Fork'. I'd heard it mentioned by other Guiding people and looked into doing it with Brownies - within hours of registering on the website I had my unit booked in for a visit this week.
One thing I particularly like about being involved with Guiding is having the opportunities to do things I wouldn't otherwise get to do, perhaps because I'm the wrong age, or it's too expensive (such as the canal boat trip we did last year, which I wouldn't have done by myself). So did I fancy taking quite a few small children on a behind the scenes trip to Tesco? I think so!
The member of staff who showed us round was incredibly friendly and clearly had experience of working with children as he spoke to them in a really engaging manner. On arrival, we were shown upstairs ("Fluffy Owl! There's an upstairs! I didn't know Tesco had an upstairs!") and the girls put on some cute little aprons and paper hats.
We made our way through the staff area ("we're in the staff area! My brother will be so jealous that he's not here!") and then out by the fish counter, where the girls each had some worksheets and we identified fish. The fishmonger also showed the girls a whole salmon and some salmon fillets and where the fillets come from on the fish. The girls then had the chance to hold a mackerel (through plastic gloves) which most of them did.
After the fish counter it was off to the bakery and we saw the massive bags of flour, smelt some yeast ("Fluffy Owl, that doesn't go in the bread I eat, my bread doesn't smell that bad!") and all the machinery. Did you know this store sells 2,500 loaves of bakery bread a week and 4,500 bread rolls?
Then off to the fruit and veg section, to identify all the colours of the rainbow:
We'd told the Brownies to be mindful of the paying customers, and to move out of the way if they were asked to do so, which to their credit they were very good at. Most customers would politely ask them to move and the Brownies would. I say most, as one customer decided not to ask a couple of girls to move and instead loudly commented on children being in public, before the two girls in his way heard him and quickly moved. He tutted as he went past. One of these Brownies turned to me and said (loud enough for him to hear) that was very rude! Which it was. Another customer had overheard this and came up to me and these Brownies and said how well behaved they were all being. Good manners don't cost anything!
When we'd found our rainbow of fruit and veg we then looked at where different items had come from and how near or far fruit had travelled. There were apples from just down the road (relatively) in Kent whereas the limes had come all the way from Brazil. A few of the girls had never really considered where food travels from before, or that most fruits have more than one variety: for example, one Brownie had put apples under 'green', another had put them under 'red' and another under 'yellow' so this led us to talk about the different types of apple and flavours and why sometimes green fruit is unripe fruit yet sometimes ripe fruit is green.
Then back through the staff area to see where the deliveries come in and a visit to the walk-in fridge and freezer. On the way round the girls asked lots of questions, which for the most part were actually quite sensible. How do you know what's on each trolley? What time do the bakers come in to bake bread? How many things does Tesco sell? We saw the recycling area, just like recycling at home but on a larger scale and all the unsold bread or burnt bread gets sent to the local pig farm for the pigs.
Back upstairs, there was samples of breads and cheeses for us all to try. The girls did try quite a few things but didn't really like the cheese, which just meant there was more for the leaders! There were Easter biscuits to decorate which handily kept the Brownies occupied whilst the owls polished off the bread and cheese.
Each Brownie was given a plastic tray with two biscuits in, although they were told they could decorate more if they finished, so I think it might have just been the leaders who 'only' took home two - I think the most I saw a Brownie take was six, and I reckon she only stopped at six because she couldn't fit any more flat in the tray! They were also given a goody bag to take home filled with age-appropriate recipes they could make themselves (with some adult supervision) and a sheet of stickers. Sadly, there weren't enough for the adults, but I smiled sweetly and a spare sheet of stickers was found for me!
Overall, I was incredibly impressed with the session, especially as it was free. The whole Eat Happy project has replaced the vouchers for schools Tesco used to offer and is a wider community initiative about getting children interested in food, healthy eating, and the whole process of farm to fork. Whilst we visited our local store as it was most convenient there are various locations around the UK where children can visit distribution centres as well as farms. All our Brownies went home happily clutching their biscuits and I think many of the parents too were impressed by how much the girls had done as the Brownies happily chatted away as they headed to the car park.
I do love meetings which go as well as this one - the Brownies were dubious about visiting a supermarket, but I think they learned quite a lot, in a fun and engaging manner. If nothing else, they took home free biscuits so I think they'd call that a successful meeting!