Bexley food growing and mental health workshop a success

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.

We shared details about this session in January, to see more read Promoting healthy lifestyles and mental wellbeing in schools.

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.

Matchfunds for Trees for Cities Edible Playgrounds

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.

See more about the programme here


Through the Bulb partnership Trees for Cities is excited to offer generous matchfunds towards all projects.

Get in touch with Trees for Cities to find out more.

Please contact or complete an expression of interest form


Could your school be a food growing Training Hub?

Capital Growth are recruiting Training Hubs for 2018, to host food-growing training, Big Dig and Urban Harvest events.

Feedback from 2017 hubs has shown this was a great opportunity to “share knowledge”, “be part of a London wide network” and reach out to “people new to the garden”.

Find out more and download the application form at

Deadline:  Monday 15 Jan


Kick start a food-growing enterprise with Roots to Work

What is Roots to Work?

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

Morning Workshops

  • 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

Afternoon Workshops

  • 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

Book NOW to guarantee your choice of workshop

Food growing – access for all

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 and share is helping some pupils develop transferable skills for life.

Recipe for Success

  1. 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
  2. Success can be key – try using some plug plants as well as growing from seed, so progress is more easily tracked
  3. 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

Making the most of a small space

Growing in a small plot
Growing in a small space

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

  1. Look at your space with new eyes and think creatively, use these resources to help choose crops that do well in small spaces
  1. Small manageable spaces can produce lots of different types of crops, this resource form Garden Organic helps you get the most out of a 120x120cm space
  1. If you want to gain as much growing area as possible consider your school roof but make sure you seek advice from professionals first

Grow Your Own Picnic

Time to Grow Your Own Picnic!
Time to Grow Your Own Picnic!

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.

What are London boroughs doing for community 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!

Good Food for London 2016 - comparing borough progress
Good Food for London 2016

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.

Let’s make 2017 even better. Join FGSL in working towards our dream to see every school in London growing food!




































FGSL News June 2015

 25 June 2015

Cyrus Todiwala launches Edible Playground in Tower Hamlets

St Paul’s Whitechapel Primary – Inspiring children to grow and eat good food

Edible Playgrounds (EP), a project led by Trees for Cities (TfC), to provide schools in urban areas the opportunity to grow food in their playgrounds, yesterday launched an edible playground in St Paul’s Whitechapel, CE Primary School, Tower Hamlets.

Chef, restaurateur, author and media personality Cyrus Todiwala OBE, whose flagship restaurant, Café Spice Namaste, is located on Prescot Street, within the borough of Tower hamlets, officially opens the edible playground today.  The local chef will be buying produce harvested in the EP to use in his restaurant.

The children at St Paul’s Whitechapel, CE Primary School have been growing lettuce, spinach, lalshak, chard, peas, beans, tomatoes and potatoes in their edible playground.  The EP has a lovely herb garden with lots of sensory plants and a pollinator garden to attract bees, butterflies and other insects to help the plants grow.  There is also a rhubarb patch, edible flowers, willow teepees and a wormery to create compost for healthy soil.

Noelle age 9, Year 4 pupil said: “Our edible playground creates a healthy environment, which makes the world a better place”.

EP benefits children’s health and education by offering those living in urban areas the opportunity to grow, harvest and eat good food, and integrate outdoor learning into the school curriculum. By transforming school grounds into fully functional food growing spaces, EP provides children the opportunity to be active outside – getting them excited about food growing and understanding where food comes from.

Cyrus Todiwala said: ‘I was delighted to open the Edible Garden at St Paul’s Primary School. I personally believe that children will appreciate food most if they know where it comes from. Being in the middle of the city we do not always have the opportunity to understand what farmers and producers can, so edible playgrounds, like this are an excellent way to expose children to the nature and its provenance.’

Sharon Johnson, Chief Executive of Trees for Cities said: “Edible Playgrounds engage children with nature and show them how rewarding it is to spend time outdoors.  Absence of natural green spaces in inner cities creates a lack of knowledge about food, its origins and how to make healthy choices about what to eat, which is an especially important issue for today’s youngest generations, many of whom are not able to see food growing.  We are delighted that the school community at St Paul’s Whitechapel, CE Primary School has come together to support the launch of an edible playground.”

Trees for Cities has been working in schools to plant fruit and nut trees since 2000. With this track record and experience, TfC’ technical expertise in the delivery of Edible Playgrounds and operations is well established and highly regarded. The first Edible Playground was created in 2003. There are currently over 25 Edible Playgrounds in the UK with a further 50 to be rolled out over the next three years.

The project has also been supported by Marsh and Bloomberg.

20 June 2015

Food Growing Schools: London to deliver support to Food Flagship Schools

UPDATE: The Food Flagship boroughs (Lambeth and Croydon) are making fantastic progress with many projects now off the ground (see original story: News 12 March 2015).  The Greater London Authority (GLA) is happy to be supporting Food Growing Schools: London to begin a programme which will deliver one to one support to 15 schools in Croydon that are not already food growing.  In addition, FGSL are delivering a series of food growing training workshops in schools in both Flagship boroughs in order to encourage all schools in the flagships to grow food.  Announcements of further food projects being funded through  the Food Flagship programme coming soon!

  • Lambeth Food Flagship aims to nurture the love of good food in the borough.
  • The principal aims of Croydon becoming a Food Flagship Borough are: growing food, learning to cook healthier food, and understanding the importance of a balanced, nutritious diet in preventing obesity.
  • Read more about the Food Flagship boroughs here.

To ensure your school is eligible for initiatives FGSL is running, please fill in our survey.

16 June 2015

Pupils to make “informed choices about healthy eating”, says Ofsted in new inspection framework

Ashton Vale School. Food For Life Partnership
Photo: Food For Life Partnership

In a watershed moment for school food, Ofsted has formally included healthy eating and knowledge of how to eat healthily in its Common Inspection Framework published yesterday. The Food for Life Partnership welcomes the commitment to children’s health it will bring about and reiterates its ongoing support for schools which can help with Ofsted inspections.

Head teachers and caterers are already working hard to make sure their students eat well and learn about food – new school food standards were introduced in January of this year, and practical cookery has been made compulsory in the national curriculum. Now Ofsted has gone further in its announcement yesterday that from September, the ability of pupils to “make informed choices about healthy eating” will form part of a judgment under personal development, behaviour and welfare.

This announcement follows a letter sent to the All Party Parliamentary Group on School Food in February, in which Ofsted highlighted that they would be placing a renewed emphasis on school food, adding that “inspectors will look for evidence of a culture or ethos of exercise and healthy eating throughout the entire inspection visit, in classrooms as well as in the school canteen.”

“A culture” of “healthy eating” goes beyond the food on the plate. Head teachers may be expected to explain how they monitor and evaluate food education, and asked whether students and parents are consulted in the development of menus. Inspectors may assess the atmosphere and culture of the dining space, and may ask whether the school governor responsible for healthy eating can provide evidence of compliance with the school food standards.

Schools looking to build and evidence this positive food culture can get free support through the Food for Life Partnership. The Department for Education has provided time-limited funding to boost school meal take-up through a number of packages that can also support school leaders to prepare for Ofsted inspection. Increase Your School Meal Take Up (IYSMTU) is being delivered by the Food for Life Partnership, whose tailored support package is worth up to £2,000. Junior and secondary schools have until the end of the summer term to register and can sign up.

For school leaders looking to excel, there is additional support available through the Food for Life Schools Award. This provides a framework in which head teachers can use food as a way to improve the whole school experience: making lunchtime a more positive feature of the day and enriching classroom learning with farm visits, practical cooking and growing. Over a thousand schools have already achieved the Award, which provides strong evidence of a culture of healthy eating in action.

Joanna Lewis, Strategy & Policy Director of Food for Life said:

“Healthy eating has been put firmly on the plate of head teachers, caterers and governors and the Food for Life Partnership can provide expert support. A whole school approach is the most effective way of establishing a culture of healthy eating. Funded support runs out at the end of the school year and our advice to schools is to sign up urgently so they don’t miss this golden opportunity.”

To find out more visit the Food For Life Partnership website.

12 June 2015

MBE honour for school food plan restaurateurs

By Judith Burns – BBC Education reporter. See full report:

Restaurateurs Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent have been made MBEs in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for their work in improving school lunches.

The pair, co-founders of the Leon restaurant chain, led a government commissioned independent review of school food, published two years ago. Their report formed the basis of revised rules on school dinners in England, brought in earlier this year. John Vincent said the aim was to bring about a cultural change in schools.

‘Children as customers’

It was vital to boost the uptake of school dinners to promote “a virtuous cycle of quality” and simply changing the rules on what could be served was not enough, said Mr Vincent. Introducing free school meals for all infant pupils and more cookery lessons in schools would help, he argued, but “treating individual children as customers, sorting out the queues and making the food great”, were key. Ultimately the pair believe better nutrition in schools will help both boost attainment and improve the nation’s health. Mr Vincent called the work “a massive privilege and a character building task”. “This recognition is a tribute to all of the people who work hard every day to provide health, pleasure and improved attainment to our children,” he said.

In 2012 the pair were asked to examine nutrition in England’s schools and suggest improvements. Their School Food Plan, was published a year later. Mr Dimbleby said they had become involved at a time when improvements in school catering were already under way.

A campaign fronted by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver had already brought about changes to the quality of food served in English schools – but less than half of children actually ate them, with many preferring packed lunches of variable nutritional quality. Their current aim is to showcase best practice in school catering and bring about “a golden age for school food”. “I think it’s reflective of the fact that the sector, which used to work quite disparately, doing lots of good things, has really come together and there’s an amazing, positive, constructive atmosphere of improvement across the country,” said Mr Dimbleby. “I think the MBE is recognition of that, rather than anything John and I have done.”

Mr Dimbleby said he was always impressed by what he saw when he went into schools. “There’s real change happening, in five years time the whole sector will be completely transformed.” Under the new rules, which came into force in January, meals must include at least one portion of vegetables or salad every day and no more than two portions of fried foods or pastry-based foods a week. The regulations are mandatory for local authority schools as well academies set up before 2010 or after June 2014.

However academies set up between 2010 and June 2014 are exempt, a source of frustration to campaigners. The government maintains it has encouraged these academies to sign up voluntarily to the new standards and that hundreds have already done so.

In total, about 11% of recipients on the honours list have been recognised for their work in the education sector. Others include Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, who becomes a CBE.

Among the 30 head teachers on the list are Nicholas Weller, executive principal of Dixons Academies in Bradford, who has been knighted. The announcement comes the day after the stabbing of a teacher during a science class at one of his schools, Dixons Kings Academy.

See full BBC report:

2 June 2015

Trees for Cities launches new Edible Playgrounds website

Opening of Edible Playground at Carlton Primary School in Camden, London
Opening of Edible Playground at Carlton Primary School in Camden, London. Trees for Cities.

Trees for Cities (TfC) is inviting schools, businesses and funders to explore its new Edible Playground website

Edible Playgrounds (EP), a project led by Trees for Cities, 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 good and understanding where food comes from.

The charity has already created over 25 Edible Playgrounds in London and is expanding the programme out across the UK this year.  As the demand for Edible Playgrounds is increasing rapidly, they now have a website dedicated to the projects involved within it.

The website has been designed to provide information to schools thinking of having their own Edible Playground and to businesses interested in supporting the project.  On the homepage you can watch an Edible Playground in action at Rotherfield Primary School in Islington, read case studies from schools and access lots of information, including how much space it will take, how much it will cost, what resources are needed and the benefits of creating an Edible Playground.

TfC also want to encourage businesses to help create more food growing spaces in schools by sponsoring EP and the website provides plenty of information on how they can support the project.

Sharon Johnson, Chief Executive of Trees for Cities said:  “With 37 per cent of children between the ages of 5 – 12 not eating enough every day and 20 per cent obese on leaving primary school, more and more schools are now educating their children on how food is grown and on making healthy eating choices.  Edible Playgrounds show children how rewarding it is to spend time outdoors and get them excited about where their food comes from.  We’re delighted to be able to launch the Edible Playground website and I would urge all schools, businesses and funders to visit it”.

Schools signed up to the Edible Playground project will get access to the Hub area on the site, where they will be able to get all the growing and educational resources they need to look after their Edible Playground and use it as an effective and engaging outdoor classroom to teach through gardening.
Visit Why not give us your feedback on the new website, if you have any questions, comments or suggestions please email


For more information please contact:

Samantha Lagan – 020 7820 4426/07825541130
Images available upon request

Notes to Editors

Edible Playgrounds (EP), a project led by Trees for Cities, transform outdoor areas in school grounds into fully functional food growing spaces, giving children the opportunity to grow, harvest and eat good food.  Edible Playgrounds tackle the problems of obesity, food poverty and lack of access to nature head on – getting kids excited about growing food and understanding where food comes from. We design and construct the food growing spaces and support the school to utilize the outdoor space as a learning resource.  EP provides children the opportunity to be active outside, which benefits children’s health and education. An EP typically includes raised beds, a greenhouse, wormery, fruit trees and an irrigation system.

Trees for Cities (TfC) is an independent charity, which inspires people to plant and love trees worldwide. Set up in 1993, Trees for Cities’ aim is to create social cohesion and beautify our cities through tree planting, community-led design, education and training initiatives in urban areas that need it most.
We manage projects across the UK as well as internationally in cities such as Addis Ababa, Nairobi and Ica.  Our work supports urban tree planting initiatives particularly in deprived areas of cities.
Community-led design is an integral part of our landscaping projects. Involving local residents, schools and community groups helps ensure the sustainability of green spaces.

Disclaimer: The Food Growing Schools: London partnership does not take responsibility for the content of news articles written by individual organisations, which are published on our ‘News’ pages.