Children in schools and nurseries in Dubai and Abu Dhabi can eat healthy, local food thanks to a project launched by an organic market.
Fresh food supplier Ripe developed the initiative Raising with Ripe to promote healthier food consumption among children.
Every week, the market will provide schools and nurseries with bags of organic, nutritious produce. All the produce is hand-picked from five farms in Liwa, Ras Al Khaimah, Al Ain, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah 48 hours before.
Food collected includes courgettes, tomatoes, cucumbers, mushrooms, basil, parsley, potatoes and peppers.
Schools and nurseries sign up to the scheme and parents pay to provide the fresh food to their children.
The bags start at Dh60 and the school will receive 10 per cent of each bag sold. "Each school can choose how to use their money," said Becky Balderstone, Ripe's founder. "We encourage them to build a green initiative and to involve kids so this could be a small veggie garden, a green wastage system or a chicken coop."
Two nurseries are already taking part in the scheme and a number of schools have expressed interest.
The first batch should start next week. "It's important to educate kids from a young age on how to grow vegetables," said Ms Balderstone. "If they know more about it then they'll be more interested and it makes it more fun for them."
Nutritionists said the move would help children develop a stronger immune system and keep their energy levels high throughout the day.
Stephanie Karl, a nutritionist at the Dubai London Clinic, said unhealthy food reduces children's immunity, which could lead to disorders such as autism. "Children's brains do not grow as well after 10 years old," Ms Karl said.
"When you're constantly giving kids processed, salty and fake coloured types of food with lots of sugar, it overburdens their body and the body can't deal with it. A really good start to a child's life is important, particularly for immunity, which can cause autism [if low]."
To apply, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 04 380 7602. For more information, visit www.ripeme.com and click on Raising with Ripe.