Best crop yet – 87% of London schools involved in food growing!

Since the launch of the Food Growing Schools: London Partnership in 2013 we have been working hard to help schools across London to grow their own food.  Over the summer we tasked research teams from the University of the West of England (Bristol) and Cardiff University to carry out an independent project evaluation so we could see how we were doing, and we’re pretty proud of the results.

The interim report was launched at City Hall on 13th October 2016 with support from Joanne McCartney AM, Deputy Mayor for London.  You can read the report in full but here are our favourite bits!

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More schools and pupils involved

87% of London schools that completed the Food Growing Schools: London survey* are now involved in food growing, and double the number of pupils are growing food in their schools. Our Growathon engaged 54,000 pupils in food growing in London up to July 2016, and 1 in 4 schools now link food growing directly to curriculum activities, embedding knowledge and skills.

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Improved skills, knowledge and behaviour

Schools have told us that food growing is having a positive impact on the education, health and well-being of their pupils, way beyond just getting their hands dirty and learning outside. 61.7% said students were more aware of nature, healthy eating and sustainability, 76.2% said pupils had enhanced knowledge and skills, and a whopping 79.2% reported improved behaviour or attainment.  That’s got to be something to celebrate!

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Increased community involvement

Schools told us that food growing has helped them to increase involvement from parents and the local community including businesses and voluntary organisations, with around 1,000 volunteers and school staff undertaking food growing training.  FGSL is helping to promote sustainability by creating strong supportive local networks where schools can help each other – sharing experience and knowledge through forums and FGSL’s pan-London school food growing conferences.

Don’t stop now!

Together, we have discovered the huge benefits of growing food in schools – improving young people’s education, health, the environment, the local economy and the impact on the local community. It’s vital now that we all continue to work together to help young people in our schools keep growing and flourishing.

Whether you are already growing food in your school, you wish to get started, or you represent an organisation who can help, here are just a few of our fantastic resources to help you get involved:

Planting seeds for the future

We think this is all pretty exciting but the undeniable benefits of food growing mean we’re keener than ever to improve on our achievements to date. We want to reach every London school and as many pupils as possible, and we want food growing to be more deeply embedded within schools.  We have the help of our wonderful partners but the Food Growing Schools: London project is due to end in March 2017.

We are looking for funding and support to continue to make an impact in schools across London, so if you can help us to reach our goals please contact FGSL Project Manager, Kate Groves: kgroves@gardenorganic.org.uk.

Food Growing Schools: London – Sowing Ideas. Growing Inspiration. Cultivating Futures.

*Figures based on evaluation surveys with lead school teachers in September 2013 (n=504) and July 2016 (n=241). The independent FGSL project evaluation was carried out by research teams from the University of the West England and Cardiff University.

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Forget Halloween, celebrate Pumpkin day!

Your school grown pumpkins are plumping up and it’s time to harvest them.  You may want to help the children carve them with funny faces for Halloween but pumpkins are so much more than just a lantern, so don’t miss the pumpkin party and try out some of these ideas.

Once you have carved out your pumpkins, you can put the insides into a mystery box and have the children dig their hands in to fish out treats or identify objects just by feel.

Pumpkin is a really tasty fruit so don’t throw the flesh away, instead create a yummy base for soups by boiling the stringy insides in water, strain, then add any veggies from your plot to the broth to make a delicious soup. Or try roasting wedges with a bit of salt and cumin to make pumpkin chips the kids will love.

And don’t forget to use all those lovely seeds.  Separate the pumpkin seeds from the flesh by rinsing under running water. Pat dry with a paper towel then put some to one side for planting. (More on this in a bit…)

If you’re feeling crafty, colour some seeds with food dye then thread using a needle to create pumpkin bracelets and necklaces. Or poke holes in a plastic bottle to make a bird feeder for your garden, fill with the pumpkin seeds and watch the wildlife flock.

If you’d like to eat them yourselves, roasted seeds can be the best bit of a pumpkin – not only are they delicious but also nutritious.  Just boil in some salted water, then lay on a tray with a sprinkle of salt and drizzle of oil and bake on a high heat for about 20 mins (depending on the size of the seeds).

And lastly, make sure you store some of the larger seeds in a cool dry spot for planting next Spring – check out this guide to growing from one of our partner organisations, the RHS.

Get your FREE Food Growing Assembly booked this term!

Looking at seed packets. Photo: Jane Baker/Garden Organic
Looking at seed packets. Photo: Jane Baker/Garden Organic

If you’re not currently growing food, or just getting started on your food growing journey, our new school assembly programme could be just for you.

Over the summer, the Food Growing Schools: London team have been beavering away to get a fun, engaging and informative assembly ready to be delivered in schools this autumn term. The idea is that the assembly is taken into schools that are yet to enjoy all the benefits of food growing, so that we can inspire teachers and pupils and make it even easier to get started.

The short assembly is linked to the curriculum, suitable for all ages and can be tailored for the needs of your school. It will get your pupils thinking about where our food comes from, why food growing is important and what can be grown within the school gates. Team the assembly with our free tips and resources and we’ll have you growing your own in no time at all!

Interested? Book your free school assembly – and receive:

  • A free visit from the FGSL team
  • An invitation to our Celebration Event at City Hall to learn more about food growing– 13 October 2016
  • An invitation to join the FGSL Growathon – and 54,000 pupils in London already growing food!
  • School staff and volunteer training
  • Free food growing resources – growing cards, activity sheets and more!

*To book, simply complete this very short survey

and we’ll do our best to get an assembly arranged for you or will add you to our waiting list for later in the team when the team may have more availability,

Here’s to food growing this term!

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Exciting Autumn food events

Get set for some food growing inspiration this Autumn with these fantastic events.

Urban Food Fortnight, 9-25 September 2016

Organised by Sustain, Urban Food Fortnight is the capital’s celebration of the fabulous ultra-local produce being grown, produced and cooked on our doorstep. Events will take place across London during these two weeks including pop-up dinners in community gardens, special menus featuring London-grown produce, food talks and more.  Try cheese from Tottenham, lamb reared in Enfield and salad grown in Hackney and take inspiration back to your own plot ready for some Autumn sowing and Spring planning. (Capital Growth)

Urban Harvest Feast, 17 September 2016

Get a taste of London’s edible gardens as Capital Growth community food growing gardens open their doors and welcome visitors in for free.  Events include foraging walks, cob oven pizza feasts, fresh apple pressing, bonfires and musical performances.  You can even enter your own school grown produce in a classic vegetable show in Stratford, or take inspiration and get tips on how to grow your own in Bethnal Green.

Check out the map to find out what’s happening near you.

London Fairtrade Schools Conference, 10 October 2016, 9.30am-2.30pm

Organised by Trading Visions and Fairtrade Foundation, this conference is to inspire pupils, teachers and support staff in London about Fairtrade. Don’t miss this amazing opportunity to hear two special guests, Esther and Samuel both aged 15, from a cocoa growing community in Ghana, who will speak about the Kuapa Kokoo Fairtrade co-operative that co-owns Divine Chocolate.  Other highlights include workshops on cocoa and the impact of Fairtrade, plus a make-your-own smoothie bike, and an opportunity to learn how to taste chocolate properly – yum!

The conference is open to students aged 7-14.  Places coste £2 each and are limited to up to two adults and eight students per school.  Snacks and drinks for breaks will be provided but please bring a packed lunch.

Email roxy@tradingvisions.org to book your places.

London Fairtrade Schools Conference, Friends House, 173-177 Euston Road, NW1 2BJ

 

Back to school top tips for Autumn

The Summer holidays are over and we’re back to school.  The mixture of sunshine and showers over the holiday period has been kind to the crops but with a new group of enthusiastic reception students and excited returning student gardeners, what tasks should you put to the top of the list this term?

Harvesting

You may still have some fruit and vegetables growing in your plots.  Over the next couple of weeks it’s time to dig most of them up and start planning a tasty meal. Vegetables like carrots, potatoesonions and beetroot can be harvested along with the last of the fruits like raspberries, blackberries, apples, pears and tomatoes.  If you can’t use them all straight away, our friends at Garden Organic have some great advice on storing your produce. Or you could try preserving them in jams, chutneys, pickles and juices.

Even better, why not encourage your enterprising youngsters to turn their produce into cash?  Enterprise Events held across London offer the opportunity to sell at markets or stores, but students can also set up their own pop up market at school to give parents and the local community a chance to taste their gardening successes.

The brand new Grow Your Own Business themed activity pack for 2016 is packed full of ideas and tips to help your students to Sow It. Grow It. Sell It!  The free to download pack includes links to enterprise resources, activity sheets, partner events, competitions, and top tips on growing, cooking and selling your school produce, and much much more…

Sowing and Growing

It’s not just about harvesting though, make sure you plan your plot to get the most out of the Autumn and Winter seasons.  September is a good time to try some late sowing of quick growing plants – leafy varieties like spring cabbage, pea shoots, pak choi and winter lettuce can be ready in just a few weeks.  Other seeds to try in September include chard, rocket, kale, spinach and mustard.

And as a final late autumn treat, put some seed potatoes in a large pot or sack, keep in the warmest part of the garden and transfer to a greenhouse once it starts to get a bit nippy outside.  With a bit of luck, they will be ready to harvest just before your school Christmas meal!

Young Marketeers Harvest Sale

Thursday 6 October 2016, 11am-2pm. Borough Market

Fifteen schools from Southwark and beyond will head to Borough Market laden with Autumn produce on October 6 for the 5th anniversary of the Young Marketeers Harvest Sale.

See the children in action between 11 and 2pm and purchase their delicious school-grown produce.

Beginning with whole school assemblies delivered by FareShare, children in the participating schools have been learning about the challenges of food poverty and the absurdity of food waste.

For the Harvest Sale Chris Collins, former Blue Peter Gardener, has been teaching primary school children the art of growing veg from seed and Borough Market traders share their trade secrets on how to create a winning market stall.

All proceeds from the Young Marketeers sales will go to food surplus charity FareShare, and every £ raised = 4 meals for vulnerable families. Their lovely film will tell you the whole story! Find out more (School Food Matters).

Interested in starting your own school food growing business?  Check out our new FREE Grow Your Own Business themed pack for Autumn 2016 – it’s packed full of ideas and tips to help your students to Sow It. Grow It. Sell It!

Download the pack now to find links to enterprise resources, activity sheets, partner events, competitions, and top tips on growing, cooking and selling your school produce, and much much more…

Celebrating our success – a City Hall event

FGSL growing activities at the Edible Garden Show. Photo: Jane Baker/Garden Organic
FGSL growing activities at the Edible Garden Show. Photo: Jane Baker/Garden Organic

We are delighted to announce that we will be celebrating the success of Food Growing Schools: London (FGSL) with a special event in the London’s Living Room at City Hall on Thursday 13 October, from 10.45am to 1.30pm, including lunch.

The event will be hosted by the GLA and opened by the Deputy Mayor of London Joanne McCartney. It will be a fantastic opportunity to bring together people from across the capital that have been part of our journey and that join us in our ambition to get every London school growing their own food!

Coinciding with our final Schools Marketplace in partnership with Capital Growth at City Hall, everyone coming to the event will also have the opportunity to visit the 15 stalls held by children on the Lower Ground floor. As always, schools will showcase their food growing by selling school grown produce and products such as chutneys, jams, herbs and winter salads. What better way to start our FGSL celebration than to see enterprising schools at work! The Schools Marketplace takes place as part of Grow Your Own Business activities this Autumn term.

Speakers at the celebration event include Chris Collins (Broadcaster and Head of Horticulture at Garden Organic), James Campbell (CEO Garden Organic), Professor Judy Orme MFPH (MSc Health Promotion), and Mat Jones MPhil, BA, PG Cert (University of West England) who will share the great successes of Food Growing Schools: London to date.

It will be a chance to look at why food growing is important and the transformational impact it can have on children and schools that get involved. We will hear first-hand from teachers and children about the benefits and why they think EVERY school in London should grow their own food.

To find out more and to book a place visit Eventbrite.

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Sixth Schools Marketplace Returns to City Hall

Schools Marketplace City Hall. Photo: Jane Baker/Grden Organic
Schools Marketplace City Hall. Photo: Jane Baker/Grden Organic

Our sixth (and final!) School Marketplace in partnership with Capital Growth will be held at City Hall on Thursday 13 October, from 11am to 2pm. All schools within Capital Growth network* are invited to take part, but you must sign up quickly as there are only 15 spaces available.

The FGSL theme for food growing this term is Grow Your Own Business and the Marketplace is a fine example of schools bringing that theme to life! Schools will once again be joining us to show off and sell their home-grown produce and products, such as jams, chutneys, herbs and winter salad bags.

To celebrate all this fantastic growing, we will be awarding prizes during the day for Best Dressed Stall, Most Enterprising Product and for the People’s Choice of their favourite stall.

We will also announce the winners of our FGSL Schools Survey prize draw, with prizes including a meal for two at Wahaca worth £50 and a visit from the FGSL team to give one-to-one gardening support. Last chance to win by completing our survey.

We were delighted to have the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan visit our Marketplace event this July. He visited every single stall and said, “It’s great to see these young people growing their own grub and developing entrepreneurial skills.”

Our final Marketplace promises to be just as special, coinciding with a Food Growing Schools: London Celebration Event taking place the same day in London’s Living Room at the top of City Hall. Every delegate will be visiting the Marketplace before the event – no doubt making it our busiest schools market ever!

To apply: Simply download, complete and return the application form to Maddie at maddie@sustainweb.org by Wednesday 28 September:
* If you’re not yet part of the Capital Growth network it’s free and really easy to join so get that done today and then you’re ready to apply to be part of the Marketplace too.

Discover more FGSL Training and Events this Autumn Term.

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Edible Playgrounds launches ‘Grow On, Film It’ short film competition

4 January 2016


Edible Playgrounds (EP), a project by Trees for Cities, is inviting London food growing schools, to participate in its new ‘Grow On, Film It!’ short film competition.

EP will ask school pupils to create short films about planting, sowing, growing, gardening, and harvesting healthy food at school. Horticulturalist and Trees for Cities patron Chris Collins will be judging the competition with £600 worth of gardening and growing equipment up for grabs and the winning entry featured on the EP and Food Growing Schools: London websites.  Entries close: Friday, 17 June 2016

‘Grow on, Film It!’ will run in conjunction with Food Growing Schools: London’s #Growathon –  which aims to inspire 10,000 London students to get growing and join the biggest school food growing challenge of the year.

Kate Sheldon, Acting Chief Executive said “We’re delighted to be launching ‘Grow On, Film It!’ as part of Food Growing Schools: London’s #Growathon. More and more schools are valuing the importance of teaching children about growing and eating healthy foods. ‘Grow On, Film It!’ will give schools and students the ability to showcase that.”

Edible Playgrounds transform outdoor areas in school grounds into fully functional food growing spaces, giving children the opportunity to grow, harvest and eat good food. EP get children living in urban areas excited about growing food and understanding where food comes from.

The charity has already created over 25 Edible Playgrounds in London and in cities across the UK.

For more information visit: http://www.edibleplaygrounds.org/grow-on-film/ or contact Carys Adler – 020 7820 4416/07825 541130

carys@treesforcities.org

New shoots: over 50,000 students happily growing food across London

We are delighted to announce that the target for our Growathon Challenge has been met!

Trafalgar Infant_1_Marketplace 2016_City Hall
Photo: Maria C. Bada/Garden Organic

Launched in October 2015, the Growathon was the biggest school food growing challenge of the year, with a target of getting 50,000 pupils involved by the end of the school summer term. The target has been exceeded with 54,168 school children reportedly involved in food growing activities, such as eco gardening clubs, seed saving projects and markets to sell their homegrown produce and products, such as jams and chutneys.

Schools have been able to log their activities on the Growathon website, where a Carrot Totaliser showed the numbers grow over the last 10 months.

Colette Bond, Head of Education at Garden Organic, said:

The Food Growing Schools: London partnership has been encouraging schools to grow food since 2013 and we’re delighted to report that over 50,000 pupils are already enjoying the benefits. From improved health and wellbeing and developing an understanding of where our food comes from to developing skills and confidence, the Growathon campaign highlights all the great things that come from food growing in schools. Congratulations to all the London children that took part!”

Borough Market_Young Marketeers
Photo: School Food Matters

The FGSL partnership brings together the very best of London’s food growing expertise, information and support to inspire and equip every school in London to grow their own food.

The partnership is led by Garden Organic and includes Capital Growth, the Soil Association’s Food For Life Partnership, the Royal Horticultural Society, School Food Matters and Trees for Cities. The project is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and has also been supported by the Mayor of London.

Former TV Blue Peter gardener, Chris Collins, said:

It’s brilliant to see the number of kids involved in food growing climbing the way it is. I’m a big supporter of the Growathon campaign and I’m thrilled to see that the target has been smashed by the end of the school year!”

FGSL are planning an event to celebrate the success of the Growathon and the project in its final year at City Hall in October 2016. This will coincide with their second annual Schools Marketplace event, the first of which was attended by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and took place in July.

London schools can access free support, tips and materials by completing the Food Growing Schools: London survey. Every school that completes the survey will be entered into a draw to win some fantastic prizes, including a meal for two worth £50 at Wahaca.