Dagenham school makes hash of ‘wasteful’ World Book Day spud celebration

Parents Diane Martin and Sara Cotham-Cox with children Marley Wilks and Logan Cotham-Cox both aged 3

Parents Diane Martin and Sara Cotham-Cox with children Marley Wilks and Logan Cotham-Cox both aged 3. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

A Dagenham primary school was forced to cancel plans to distribute 630 potatoes for students to take home and decorate for World Book Day after parents complained that it was a terrible waste of food.

Protestors were set to turn up at the gates of Godwin Primary School with placards and collection buckets for people to donate their potatoes to a soup kitchen.

But with the potatoes already purchased and pupils primed to take the spuds home, the school called the whole thing off.

The school initially decided to buck the trend of pupils dressing up as their favourite fictional character by instead getting their pupils to decorate potatoes so parents didn’t have to fork out for expensive costumes.

But campaigners said that last year when the school ran the potato celebration a number of parents cooked them because they struggle to afford to feed their family.

“There are children at this school whose only hot meal they get is their school lunch,” said parent protestor Diane Martin.

“To buy potatoes that you know are going to waste to me is just disgusting,” she added.

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“So many in our borough are finding it so hard to put food on their table.”

Diane, whose husband runs a foodbank, was supported by an online petition and a number of other parents.

“A lot of families at the school use the foodbank,” said Sara Cotham-Cox, who has three children at the school.

Sara said that last year some of the potatoes were in a bad condition and some parents went out to buy yet another, meaning the true scale of waste was even greater.

The school could organise another cheap alternative to fancy dress that didn’t involve wasting large quantities of food, she adds.

Sara suggested pupils instead could have designed a new cover for their favourite book.

A council spokesman said World Book Day should be an “inclusive” celebration for everybody, adding there is increasing pressure for parents to purchase “more elaborate outfits.”

Despite getting the potatoes at a discount rate, “after listening to the concerns of some parents, they have sadly decided to no longer proceed with the idea.”