Food Growing Schools: London teamed up with The London Borough of Bexley’s Public Health Team to highlight the positive impact food growing can have on young peoples mental health and to get more schools to get involved.
The food growing forum was held after school on 29 January at Bexley Civic Council Offices and was a great success.
Ten staff members from various Bexley Primary and Secondary Schools participated in an informative session that considered how school food growing activities can support the mental health needs of pupils.
Lisa Grant, Engagement Officer for Food Growing Schools: London (FGSL) writes:
“The Public Health Team in Bexley and I met with in November last year to discuss the idea we had of a jointly run forum/workshop. We wanted to share information about dealing with the struggles that school-life can throw-up by discussing outdoor learning or food growing as a positive outlet for pupils with mental health challenges. We were thrilled to be able to come together to run this session which was met with positive reviews.”
Pascale, from Bexley Public Health team, has a background in promoting positive initiatives for dealing with mental health issues. She shared information around the Five Ways to Wellbeing – something she is promoting through assemblies in schools in Bexley..
Lisa from Food growing Schools; London knew that many of the people attending were new to food growing and worked at schools where the outdoor growing space was overgrown or non-existent. She presented ideas on how to infuse outdoor learning activities linked to promoting mental health initiatives into the school day.The session included attendees making their own paper pot, filling it with compost and sowing a broad bean seed. This activity was an example of what school staff could engage in with their pupils in a mindful way.
We encouraged everyone to keep in contact with us at Food Growing Schools: London in order for us to let them know what further support we could offer via our online survey. On top of that, we encouraged everyone to sign-up for our regular FGSL Newsletter which includes lots of helpful information including fun competitions and training available throughout London.
Trees for Cities and Bulb, the UK renewable energy supplier, are looking for London schools interested in transforming their playgrounds into food growing spaces and building their capacity to teach through gardening.
The Edible Playgrounds project includes designing and building a bespoke, vibrant and functional teaching garden alongside teacher training, curriculum mapping and other support to build teacher’s confidence and skills to teach outside.
Capital Growth have a packed line-up for Roots to Work – an annual conference for people interested in kick-starting or developing a food-growing enterprise or career, with workshops, speakers and networking opportunities.
The event also includes the launch of the Urban Farming Toolkit with our partners, Growing Communities, plus one-to-one advice, as well as our amazing panel of key speakers and a choice of four unique workshops to get you started, or alternatively, take you to the next level. Book NOW to guarantee your choice of workshop. Full line-up below.
Clare who joined Roots to Work 2016 and is currently training with OrganicLea said:
“the conference was so inspiring and useful that I ended up applying for a traineeship with the Castle Garden”
Speakers followed by panel Q&A
Lessons Learnt from Peri-Urban Farming. Alice Holden, Growing Communities- Author of ‘Do Grow’ and head farmer at Growing Communities Dagenham Farm
New approaches to developing livelihoods for Urban Farmers: Brian Kelly, Organiclea
Transitioning from volunteering to making a living: Sara Barnes – Growing Communities Patchwork Farmer and Organiclea trainee
Freelancing: Getting your own business growing. Hannah Schlotter of hannahgrows.com
Advanced growing to sell: An in-depth look at key crops, with a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages they present. This workshop will also explore the topics of management, planning, productivity and value. Joris Gunawardena (Sutton Community Farm)
How to get your urban farm started (based on the Urban Farming Toolkit) – Sophie Verhagen, Head Grower Growing Communities Patchwork Farms
Growing the sector: how can we work together to address barriers for urban food growing enterprise. Nat Mady/Natalie Szarek – Community Food Growers Network (CFGN)
Diversifying income: Securing and diversifying income for community gardens: Julie Riehl – Capital Growth, Sustain
Plus Zooming in on the Future
Book a 15 minute 1:2:1 for advice on getting your career started from Amber Alferoff – Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens
The beauty of food growing in schools is that it is an activity all pupils can engage in and benefit from. One school for pupils with a range of special educational needs is proving just that.
Many pupils at Charlton Park Academy had limited access to outside space and little understanding of where food comes from. Bryher Pennells, Culture Curriculum Lead, decided to introduce food growing to the school.
They used raised beds and trugs enabling access for all pupils including those in wheelchairs. Plants are chosen for different reasons; fruit trees and hanging baskets entice pupils to look up, and herbs are great for the sensory gardens encouraging touch, taste and smell.
Pupils benefit in lots of different ways too, some trying food they wouldn’t normally eat and others expanding their learning through photography and cooking. The post-16 student enterprise which uses produce from the garden to make food to sell andshare is helping some pupils develop transferable skills for life.
Recipe for Success
Health and safety is obviously really important, Bryher uses organic compost which is refreshed every year and pupils use their hands to plant so no heavy tools are required
Success can be key – try using some plug plants as well as growing from seed, so progress is more easily tracked
Choose a range of crops, different textures, colours and smells – use the growing cards from Garden Organic to help work out what to plant and when
The hats and gloves have been packed away and the sun has been making an appearance across the country. With the warmer and lighter days comes the opportunity to pull on your wellies and start growing food at your school this year.
We know it might seem a bit daunting at first so we have put together a series of blogs to help you spring over the hurdles and get started.
Our schools survey showed that around 30% of schools consider lack of space to be one of the biggest hurdles to food growing that they face. So, first things first – where can we grow?
If you happen to have a nice sunny spot on your school playing field then great, start digging! But if not, don’t give up. Lots of food can be grown in containers of all shapes and sizes on the ground, on windowsills or hanging down.
John Ruskin Primary School in Southwark have limited outdoor space so all of their growing is in trugs and raised beds built on the playground, and with help from Walworth Garden Farm, they have also started growing food on the roof of the school.
They have lost a bit of playground area but the children play around the beds which makes the space more dynamic. Now they’re thinking of how to make opportunities to grow upwards, using archways and trellis to get the most out of every square foot.
Suzy Gregory, Co-Deputy Headteacher suggests getting a planter as big as you can afford, and just start growing. Plant something easy like lettuce, potatoes or tomatoes and give it a grow!
Recipe for Success
Look at your space with new eyes and think creatively, use these resources to help choose crops that do well in small spaces
What better way to show off the school’s new-found gardening skills than to Grow Your Own Picnic to share with pupils, parents and the local community.
The FREE Grow Your Own Picnic Pack from Food Growing Schools: London is jammed full of advice, tips and activities to help you plan and grow crops and then turn them into delicious home-made dips, sandwiches, salads and other delights to create a summer picnic feast.
The pack also includes advice for linking with your local community to generate support for your growing activities and to share the spoils of success at the end of the summer term.
So what are you waiting for? Download the Grow Your Own Picnic pack now and start to harvest the benefits of school food growing.
Today sees the launch of the Good Food For London 2016 report, produced by our friends at Sustain through their London Food Link project. The report takes an intriguing look at various aspects of ‘good food’, from community food growing and school food standards, to animal welfare, sustainable fish, fair pay and fair trade – and at the boroughs that are making strides to improve food culture in London. Good Food For London is supported by the GLA and partner organisations, including Food Growing Schools: London.
London boroughs are ranked in a league table according to their action on 11 ‘good food’ measures. Scores range from 95 to 15 per cent. The fantastic news is that 30 out of 33 London boroughs are doing more to improve the food available to their residents, workers and school pupils compared to 2015. For a broad look at ‘good food’ in London’s boroughs you can read the full Good Food for London 2016 report here.
Good food in London’s schools
So what does the Good Food For London 2016 report say about progress in schools? There are four key measures related to schools listed below:
Community Food Growing (Green map and list above)
The GFFL 2016 report for this measure shows that there is 1) increasing local authority commitment to food growing in communities, 2) inclusion of food growing in the Local Plan for more boroughs, and 3) borough support for school food growing through our Food Growing Schools: London (FGSL) programme. To achieve this measure at least 75% of local schools should be registered with FGSL by completing our short FGSL survey.
FGSL’s work with councils, council officers and communications representatives is really starting to make a difference. According to our own FGSL interim report launched at City Hall in October 2016, now 25 out of 33 boroughs are promoting food growing in schools compared to 15 in 2015. Almost 1,400 schools have signed up for support from FGSL so far, 87% of schools that have completed our FGSL survey have said they are involved in food growing, of which 79% cent of pupils involved have improved behaviour and attainment as a result, and 1,000 people have received training from FGSL to date. Amazing!
Food For Life Catering Mark (listed in red on chart)
The Soil Association Food For Life Catering Mark helps organisations – from schools to nurseries to museums and staff restaurants – ensure they serve traceable, sustainable, healthier food. For this measure, the GFFL 2016 report shows that in 21 boroughs, the majority of schools are now serving Silver or Gold catering mark meals and many expanded catering mark meals to nurseries. This is remarkable especially considering in 2011 no boroughs were serving Gold catering mark meals and only eight were serving Silver in the majority of schools. But the work is far from done. This leaves out almost one third of borough where the majority of schools don’t serve meals with the accreditation. Food for Life is one of six FGSL partners.
Changing food culture in schools
From September 2015 the new OFSTED inspection framework has an increased focus on healthy eating and knowledge of how to eat healthily. The GFFL 2016 report also measures changes in food culture in schools by looking at progress in two evidenced-based programmes: Food for Life and Healthy Schools London. The report shows that 22 boroughs are making ‘some progress’ and only seven are making ‘good progress’ in engaging with these school programmes.
Food Flagships two years on – Croydon and Lambeth
In June 2014, the Mayor of London launched the Food Flagship programme in two pilot boroughs: Croydon and Lambeth, encouraging the wider community to make healthy eating normal. Lots has been achieved, and Food Growing Schools: London has supported these initiatives by doing food growing activities and training in in both boroughs, and supporting with a Schools Marketplace, four school Edible Playgrounds (with Trees for Cities) and Master Gardener community growing (with Garden Organic) in Croydon.
FGSL – continued support for London boroughs
The full Good Food For London 2016 report shows that great strides have been made to improve food culture in London, and FGSL is a big part of this. But we want to do even more with schools. Find out more about FGSL Support including.