Back to (food growing) school!

Summer holidays are coming to an end but we’re excited to go “back to school” for another year of building on the tremendous success of our Food Growing Schools: London project.

Garden Organic, working with the Food Growing Schools: London project partners, are geared up to deliver support, activities, training and resources to hundreds of participants across the capital as pupils return to the classroom and their school food growing projects.

From growing food in school gardens, to cooking it in school kitchens and selling it at local market events, the Food Growing Schools: London project is giving pupils in our country’s most populous urban centre a chance to live healthier, happier and more environmentally sustainable lifestyles.

There is still a way to go to meet the ambitious objective of getting every school in London growing food but there is certainly lots to celebrate from the first three years of the original project.

Evaluation* of the project’s growing impact in the city has highlighted Food Growing Schools: London’s contribution:

  • 87% of schools are now engaged in food growing*
  • 79% of schools report students are more aware of nature, healthy eating and sustainability
  • 54% of schools report improved behaviour or attainment
  • 25% of schools now link food growing to the curriculum
  • 1,000 school staff and volunteers have received food growing training

Some key achievements include:

  • Six Schools Marketplaces at City Hall – and more in local boroughs
  • Two School Food Growing Conferences
  • Heritage Seed Library Seed Guardian Project – with Garden Organic
  • Schools Oca Growing Project – as part of ‘Grow Around the World’ activities
  • Growathon – engaging over 76,000 pupils in food growing
  • Delivered 40 school assemblies across London to help kick start food growing in schools
  • Partnership with the Food Flagship Boroughs of Croydon and Lambeth
  • Partnership with Borough Councils through the Good Food for London report

You can help

If you want to help give pupils in London the chance to grow food at school, here are a few simple actions you can take to get involved.

Wherever you may live in this great country, we appreciate the support in helping to build our online community and to amplify our voice. Many of our resources, tips and tricks are useful and designed to be used in any part of the country.

If you know someone based in London, why not mention the project to them? For completing our survey they will receive a term-time planner, seeds and also have the chance to win prizes like vouchers or other items.*

  • Be a volunteer and leader in your community

Many schools in London are looking for volunteers, items or funding to kick start or develop food growing projects. Offer your time, knowledge, skills or spare gardening tools to a school near you – find out how.

  • Support charities who stand up for what you believe in

The Food Growing Schools: London project is a partnership of charities. While the FGSL project doesn’t accept charitable donations for funding, the partners who deliver worthwhile projects all across the UK could use your support.

Garden Organic is calling for donations to the Fighting Fund to react quickly and directly when the rights of organic growers are threatened and this is especially important during these turbulent political times.

Want to know more about our partners?

Find out here about the incredible work the other Food Growing Schools: London partner charities are doing and how you can support their work.

 

*All statistics in this article are based on evaluation surveys with lead school teachers in Sept 2013 (n=504) and Jan 2017 (n=313). Evaluation was conducted by Prof Mat Jones, Emma Weikamp (both UWE Bristol) and Hannah Pitt (Cardiff University) Public Health and Wellbeing Research Group, UWE, Frenchay Campus, Bristol, BS16 1QY

*Of the schools that participated in the FGSL survey, the percentage of schools engaged in food growing has risen from 72% to 87% since 2013.

*Free term time planner, seeds, vouchers and prizes are available while stocks last and some items may not be available to everyone.

Food Growing Schools: London is a partnership initiative led by Garden Organic. Garden Organic, the working name of the Henry Doubleday Research Association, is a registered charity in England and Wales (no. 298104) and Scotland (SC046767).

Continue reading “Back to (food growing) school!”

Local School Nature Grants Scheme

Learning through Landscapes Nature GrantsFood Growing Schools: London’s lead partner Garden Organic are delighted to be a supplier in the Local School Nature Grants Scheme, helping schools branch out into nature

What do birdboxes, bee hotels, den making kits and nature experts all have in common? They are all available free to schools as part of Learning through Landscapes’ Local School Nature Grants Programme, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery: http://www.ltl.org.uk/naturegrants/

Learning through Landscapes is a UK charity dedicated to enhancing outdoor learning and play for children. The grants provide an assortment of nature equipment and training up to the value of £500. The packages are customisable, enabling schools to choose from a menu of items which best suit their learners and their setting. All schools in England, Scotland and Wales are welcome to apply.

For example the Garden Organic Get Growing Kit includes:

A great pack of resources to actually get you growing:
1 x Starter pack of seeds
(18 packets of organic fruit and vegetable seeds plus edible flowers. (Exact seeds provided will depend on the season))
1 x term time growing planner
1 x pack of 25 vegetable growing cards
1 x composting booklet
1 x soil information pack
(Total 23 items)

The other suppliers are Glasgow Wood Recycling, Outdoor People, RSPB, MindStretchers and Touchwood.

The aim is to make it easy to get young people in touch with nature, and so the application process is quick and straight forward. The programme launches in late January 2017 and will be open to applications for a full year.

The project is funded by Postcode Local Trust, which receives funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

This scheme does not provide cash grants for schools.

To find out more visit: Local School Nature Grants Programme.

To find out about more competitions, offers and funds on the Food Growing Schools: London website visit: Competitions

 

Food Growing in Schools: Research Round-up

The benefits of food growing reach far beyond improving gardening skills and teaching children where food comes from and the FGSL partnership has gathered lots of evidence to show this.

Research round upTrees for Cities (TFC) have worked with 50 schools to create Edible Playgrounds. These spaces are a fun way to teach children new skills, enrich food education and get food growing into the curriculum.

TFC identify some of the key challenges that food growing helps to tackle:

  1. Children have a disconnect with nature and understanding where food comes from:

33% of pupils in UK primary schools believe cheese comes from plants.

25% believed that fish fingers come from chicken or pigs.*

  1. Mental and physical health problems are widespread:

Latest figures from Public Health England show that a third of 10-11 year olds and over a fifth of 4-5 year olds are overweight or obese.

1 in 10 children have a diagnosable mental health disorder.

So how are pupils benefitting from food growing?

Improved skills, knowledge and behaviour

Over 90% of head teachers said their Edible Playground had increased students’ gardening skills, knowledge of the environment and food origins and uptake of fruit and vegetables.

Lots of schools have been using the playground to run therapy sessions for SEN children or those with anger management issues.

70% of schools surveyed said the playgrounds have supported work with SEN students or those with challenging behavioural issues.

“It has a very calming effect on some pupils with significantly challenging behavioural difficulties”  Rockmount Primary School.

RHS research has also found that gardening can help children to develop ‘a more resilient, confident and responsible approach to life’.

Food growing used as a teaching tool

All of the Head Teachers surveyed use their edible playground for maths and science lessons, as well as for English and art (92%), design and technology (76%), geography (30%), languages (23%), RE and ICT (15%) and history (7%).

1 in 4 schools now link food growing to the curriculum**

These positive findings echo the results of the independent FGSL evaluation 2016, that also shows how food growing in schools increases links between schools and local businesses, organisations and volunteers and brings significant value to schools that are part of the programme.

Read the full FGSL report and more about the TFC research results.

*surveyed by the British Nutrition Foundation in 2013.  **FGSL Figures based on evaluation surveys with lead school teachers in September 2013 (n=504) and July 2016 (n=241).

Four steps to managing your garden pests

Sharing your garden with nature is part of gardening and even in the best managed fruit and veg gardens, natural pests and predators will present themselves, but they needn’t be a problem.

Follow Capital Growth’s four simple steps to manage your pests: Protect, Remove, Repel, Prevent.

pests-and-diseases1. PROTECT your plants using cut plastic bottles around the seedling to prevent pests from reaching the plant.

2. REMOVE the pest by manually taking off those you can see.

By taking off the top of broad beans if they’re covered in aphids (greenfly, blackfly, plant lice) the plant has a chance to grow and produce beans.

Take a look at the RHS advice on Aphids.

Create a ‘slug and snail hunt’ and re-locate the culprits outside your garden- at least a few 100 yards away. Check out Garden Organic’s information on how to prevent and remove slugs, along with fascinating facts. Who knew there are over 100 different species of slugs and snails in the UK!.

Scare away birds by hanging fabric or CDs near your plants – we’ve found some bird control methods here.

Make your own owl sun catcher to scare the birds
Make your own owl sun catcher to scare the birds

3. REPEL using natural methods

Garlic spray is great for all aphids (and safe to use, just watch your eyes) and easy to prepare; put one crushed garlic clove with the skin left on into 1 litre of boiling water. Cool and strain and you have a very effective spray.

Get rid of pests with garlic

Got a problem with the fast-growing fungus that is mildew? Powdery mildews attack a wide range of plants, causing a white, dusty coating on leaves, stems and flowers.

Use milk to prevent powdery mildew

4. PREVENT any more pests from coming in.

Limit pest habitats like planks of wet wood on the ground which harbour slugs and snails and promote pests by offering them habitats. Have a hedgehog house, a bat and a bird box nearby, make solitary bee boxes and leave an untidy patch to attract more beneficial insects.

Avoid pesticides, encourage wildlife

Get more great advice from Green Gardener and our friends at the RHS, who have a helpful A-Z of pests and solutions. And join a Capital Growth training session.

Reap what you sow: Tips from Chris Collins

Chris Top tips resizedWe’re delighted to be able to share some top tips from FGSL resident expert Chris Collins, to help you get the most from your food growing efforts this year.

“This is the busiest point in the garden and time to get cracking if you want a bountiful summer. Sowing seeds is currently the order of the day for me. This year I’m growing many heritage varieties that I got from Garden Organic, but use whatever you can get your hands on!”

For schools, there’s always the challenge of the timing of terms, particularly growing ‘tender’ crops such as tomatoes, runner beans or pumpkins. These are no lovers of any cold weather and need to be protected until mid-May before planting out. This leaves only a small amount of time for harvesting in the school garden before the summer break begins.

To get around this dilemma we need to sow these plants NOW, so here are some handy tips:

  1. Invest in a few propagators (mini Greenhouses) like these.

Whilst they do require initial expenditure, they’ll last many seasons if cared for. If this is not an option, a pot with a perforated sandwich bag held in place by canes and a rubber band over it will suffice. This video might help!

  1. Sow plants using a seed compost

Don’t skimp on compost, it’s important! But you can save money by producing your own compost by collecting leaves, raw food waste, such as fruit and veg peelings, and adding them to a compost heap in your garden.

How to make your own compost

  1. Re-pot plants

In its incubation chamber, our propagator will soon germinate our seeds. Once this happens they should be taken out, potted into bigger pots if necessary and placed on a bright school window ledge, preferably out of long periods of direct sunshine which may bleach the leaves.

  1. Grow, then plant out

These plants can then be grown until the safety of mid-May, at which point they can be planted out as nice sturdy specimens, giving them a great head start on the season.

“This will all be worth the extra effort. Tomatoes, beans and pumpkins are the fastest growing and fastest yielding of the edible crops, making them a real joy for the children to see them grow.”

Also check out this advice on sowing indoors from The RHS and the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Happy Growing!

 

London schools get enterprising with School Food Matters

School Food Matters Market Day in Stoke Newington, with with Hoxton Garden Primary.
School Food Matters Market Day in Stoke Newington, with Hoxton Garden Primary.

School Food Matters are one of six fantastic Food Growing Schools: London partners founded in 2007 by parent Stephanie Wood. Over the past 10 years they have made their name as experts in school food enterprise projects, working with thousands of pupils in schools across London.

Enterprising school food projects

In March and April 2017, Know your Onions, School Food Matters’ new secondary school project progresses with 15 gardening sessions delivered by our partners, Garden Organic. These sessions will inspire students to get involved in food growing, think about where their food comes from and learn useful skills.  In April, these schools visit a local market garden where they can see professional food growing at scale, within the boundaries of London. These visits help the students to contextualise their food growing in the wider environment and think about the effects of global food production on the environment. Know your Onions is kindly supported for 3 years by the City of London Corporation’s charity, City Bridge Trust. Read more about the progress of the programme, including students learning to cook their produce, and sell it at their local street market: Know Your Onions.

The Schools to Market programme, led by School Food Matters in partnership with Whole Kids Foundation, is now entering its fifth year and kicks off in March 2017 with an assembly at 20 participating schools. This year five Whole Foods Market stores are taking part: Richmond, Fulham Broadway, High Street Kensington, Cheltenham and Giffnock. The assembly not only launches the programme but also looks at the purpose of it; to take children on a journey from seed to supermarket, to teach them about fresh, healthy food and to improve their nutrition and wellbeing. This way the whole school can benefit from the assembly and not just those children chosen to participate in Schools to Market. Keep up to date with what’s happening when at: Schools to Market.

Other enterprising School Food Matters projects include: Young Marketeers at Borough Market and Fresh Enterprise: School Food Matters Enterprise Projects

For ideas on how to start an enterprise food project in your school visit the Food Growing Schools: London website: Grow Your Own Business

Fantastic news for Food Growing Schools: London!

Fred Wilcox, RHS Young Gardener of the Year, at the Food Growing Schools: London Schools Marketplace with City Hall staff. Trafalgar Infants School, Richmond. Jane Baker/Garden Organic
Fred Wilcox, RHS Young Gardener of the Year 2016, at a Food Growing Schools: London Schools Marketplace. Trafalgar Infants School, Richmond. Jane Baker/Garden Organic

New funding secured to continue

We are delighted to announce plans to build on the fantastic achievements of Food Growing Schools: London by continuing to promote food growing in London schools.

For the past three years, Garden Organic has been leading the Food Growing Schools: London partnership (funded by the Big Lottery Fund), working with the Mayor of London, Capital Growth, the Soil Association’s Food For Life project, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), School Food Matters and Trees for Cities.

Due to end in March this year, Food Growing Schools: London has achieved remarkable results helping to promote and support food growing, healthy eating and sustainability in schools across London. Now, thanks to financial support from a major donor, Garden Organic is thrilled to be able to build on the successes and learning of this project for a further 12 months.

Chris Collins, Head of Organic Horticulture at Garden Organic and former Blue Peter Gardener, is thrilled that this project will continue: “It’s such an uplifting piece of news – Garden Organic has made great strides in the past three years, highlighting and supporting the fundamental importance of organic food growing in schools.” He commented. “Understanding the process from seed to plate is a life skill, and the hard work of those involved in the Food Growing Schools: London project has made great leaps in educating the next generation. However the work is far from done; we have set off on the road and it is superb news that continued funding enables us to carry on this positive work.”

Garden Organic’s Head of Education, Colette Bond has been involved in the project since its inception. “Garden Organic has, for decades, been involved in encouraging children to grow food. We know that something as simple as growing fruit and veg organically can have a life-changing impact on children.” She commented. “A large number of London pupils have never been exposed to food growing. We’re delighted with the impact the Food Growing Schools: London project has had so far, and to now have the opportunity to continue this work.”

This support will allow Garden Organic to evolve the project over a 12 month period; to enhance the most successful elements so that even more schools embrace food growing and enjoy the life-changing benefits it has been proven to bring.

The Food Growing Schools: London website has information and downloadable resources for schools interested in accessing the support offered. Alternatively, to discuss the project further, or to talk through specific requirements, please contact education@gardenorganic.org.uk.

About the project

Food Growing Schools: London, launched in 2013, was established to increase the number of London schools growing food. Through a combination of hands on support, teacher training, termly growing activities and regular events, the project has delivered impressive achievements. An independent review of Food Growing Schools: London reported that 87% of London schools surveyed are now involved in growing, with 1 in 4 linking food growing directly to the curriculum. This take up of food growing activities has led to a significant increase in pupils being more aware of healthy eating and sustainability – enabling them to start making healthy life choices from an early age.

The independent external evaluation of the project, completed in 2016 by the University of the West of England, is available to download here.

Grandparent Gardening Week!

Grandparent Gardening Week. Soil Association Food for Life. shutterstock_180987194It’s that time of year again. Every Spring FGSL project partners Soil Association Food for Life (FFL) encourage schools around the UK to get growing – with the support of grandparents! Grandparent Gardening Week takes place from 27-31 March 2017.

For beginners, food growing in school can seem a little daunting, but with the right support from the local community it can be surprisingly fun, and a great opportunity for all generations to learn together using the garden. Grandparents often come with bags of gardening enthusiasm, knowledge, experience and time to share with the younger generations. That’s why they’re perfect for helping in schools too.

Hosting a gardening activity
Ask  a team of students to lead the Grandparent Gardening Week activities, involving your school cook and DT lead. Ask what crops they would like to see grown, think about where they might plant them or how your school cook could use them in their recipes, linking the crops with the kitchen and classroom learning. Share ideas and plans across the school to involve everyone in the fun! The Food for Life Awards Package provides plenty of expert growing resources, including Garden Organic growing cards. For a template poster, media invite and press release visit: Grandparent Gardening Week.

Spring into Growing – Plan it. Build it. Grow it!
You can also dip into FGSL Spring into Growing 2017 resources to help you get growing together on Grandparent Gardening Day. For more ideas on how to work with your local community visit FGSL Support.

Get your grandparents involved – happy growing together!

Grandparent Gardening Week

London schools save seeds from extinction

Heritage seed variety, Mummy's Pea. Photo: Garden Organic.
Heritage seed variety, Mummy’s Pea. Photo: Garden Organic.

Celebrating the work of School Seed Guardians

by Julie Henley-Wilkinson

Cast your mind back to the start of the growing season on a cold, rainy, sleet ridden and blustery day in March. Enthusiastic staff from schools across London set off on a journey that commenced in Holland Park Ecology Centre in Royal Borough Kensington & Chelsea.

Their mission? To take some precious Heritage Seeds that are no longer commercially available and teach young growers in their schools to become ‘Seed Guardians’, and learn how to sow, grow, harvest and preserve the next generation of seeds for ‘Mummy’s Pea’ and ‘Czechoslovakian climbing French beans’ varieties.

Why save seed? – Garden Organic’s Heritage Seeds Library
The destination of the newly produced seed is the unique Heritage Seed Library run by FGSL’s lead partner Garden Organic. Here they will be carefully checked and quality assured so that more Seed Guardians may continue the fragile and hugely important work of keeping these special varieties alive.  Without this work varieties of fruit, vegetables and herbs will decline and important seed varieties will become extinct.

Seed packing at the Heritage Seed Library. Photo: Garden Organic.
Seed packing at the Heritage Seed Library. Photo: Garden Organic.

City growing spaces for schools
London schools often need to be creative and inventive with their sometimes limited urban outdoor space in which to grow.  The Seed Guardians took up the challenge with great gusto, using community allotments, purposed built raised trugs and old tyres all obligingly hosting the precious seeds. The schools involved were:

Camden – Argyle Primary School
Croydon – Bensham Manor School
Ealing – Berrymede School
Greenwich – Charlton Park Academy
Hackney – St Scholasticas RC Primary School
Havering – Brookside Infants School
Kingston –  Richard Challoner Secondary School
Lambeth – Bonneville Primary, Dunraven Primary, Hitherfield Primary
Richmond – Trafalgar Infants School

A challenging growing season
Growers out there may agree that the 2016 growing season may be remembered for its inclement weather. A cold, if non-existent spring followed by the exceptionally late arrival of summer. A few slugs and snails nibbled away at our luscious ‘Mummy’s Pea’ and ‘Czechoslovakian Bean’ plants whilst they were still getting established, but our Seed Guardians did not let this stop them! A school visit to Trafalgar Infants School in early September revealed we were not the only ones to think this way. A sudden and previously unexplained disappearance of some of ‘Mummy’s Pea’ crop was obligingly solved when Mr & Mrs Mouse and family, put in an appearance for a photo call.

Successful seed saving in schools
The final arrival of some summer sun was welcomed by our young Seed Guardians, and plants finally  flourished and produced gorgeous seeds for an autumn harvest. The seed saving journey has proved to be loaded with fun, challenge and opportunity for a group of eager young growers. As pods are dried and seeds are harvested, we wait with anticipation to learn how many seeds were saved from the London schools pilot crop this year. But we do know it was all worth it when we hear that lovely question: ‘can we do this again next year?’

Seed Guardians pass it on: sharing seeds for planting next year.
A small enthusiastic and committed group of seed guardians made a really important contribution to saving heritage seeds this year. To keep on growing a good thing just needs a bit of foresight and local school co-operation. Our pilot school seed guardians are now equipped to pass on their learning experiences as guardians and can offer a neighbouring  school a few saved seeds to start growing their own heritage plants next growing season and save even more seeds.

Find out how to do ‘Seed saving in schools’ with this handy Garden Organic guide – found on our FGSL Resources page.

About Julie
Julie Henley-Wilkinson is one of three School and Community Engagement Officers. She works with schools and organisations in: Ealing, Hounslow, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Kingston, Richmond, Hackney, Merton and Wandsworth.

Julie supports both community events and school events where there are multiple schools involved, in all of these boroughs. She also runs twilight seminars and training sessions on a wide range of grow your own topics to suit the needs of the schools. Occasionally one off school visits can also be arranged.

Julie has worked with children and families for more than 25 years, 15 of those have been directly in education, working with children from early years, right through to college leavers. Helping and supporting the learning needs of children with disabilities and those from vulnerable groups has been a consistent thread throughout. Passing on her knowledge and skills related to ‘how to grow’ means that I can make a contribution towards young learners accessing opportunities to develop confidence and achieve their aspirations.

Find support in your borough: FGSL Team.

 

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