Sheila Dillon Sheila Dillon

The Country Trust’s BBC Radio 4 Appeal

Sheila Dillon from BBC Radio 4's The Food Programme launches our appeal.

For a decade, Sheila Dillon, who is best known for fronting BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme, has been a supporter of our work. 

In July she’s presenting our BBC Radio 4 Appeal. The need f­or our work is growing and we’re at a critical point in our mission to connect children with the land that sustains us all. Over the next five years we plan to significantly increase the number of children we reach – but this will only be possible with the help of our supporters. 

A few years ago, Sheila joined us with a group of children from one of the most deprived areas of Norwich, as they learned about food. It was part of our year-long food discovery programme which is carefully designed so children learn to grow their own food, cooking skills and how to make affordable, healthy, delicious recipes. 

Sheila’s own childhood, in 1950s rural Lancashire, was filled with home-cooked meals from ingredients that were almost all produced locally. She had all the open space and fresh food she needed. “This was something I took for granted” she says.   

This is a very different picture from the eight and nine-year-olds taking part in the food discovery programme who weren’t familiar with cooking or seeing the raw ingredients that go into a meal.   

Sheila was impressed by what she saw. “Over the years, I’ve seen the magical effect The Country Trust’s work has on children. Getting their hands in the soil; meeting farmers; tentatively tasting vegetables, often for the first time. Watching in awe as a lamb is born. Anxiously refusing to try brown bread, until they’ve had the chance to grind the grain into flour for themselves. 

 “It’s about giving children what they need to explore where food comes from, first-hand. Igniting a connection to the land that sustains us all. Because we’re losing that connection.” 

The statistics on this speak for themselves. Research from the National Trust shows the amount of time children spend playing outside has halved in a generation. A study in The Lancet estimates that fourteen-per-cent of deaths each year in the UK are now diet related. And this affects the disadvantaged in our society most of all. 

In asking people to support our work, Sheila ends the appeal by saying: 

“Food should nourish us. Somehow, we’ve forgotten that. Our disconnect with what we eat is endangering our health. We must empower the next generation to change this. Please join me in supporting The Country Trust now.”   

Listen out for our BBC Radio 4 Appeal on: 
Sunday 3 July - 7:54 & 21:25 
Thursday 7 July – 15:27 


Image of Shelia Dillon copyright: Borough Market.