One of our Food Growing Schools: London partners, Soil Association Food for Life is working with the London Royal Borough of Greenwich to transform food culture in the borough.
Alexander McLeod Primary School in Abbey Wood hosted a few keen people on 5 Dec 2017 who had food growing and healthy cooking on their minds as part of the Food for Life Train the Trainer partnership in Greenwich.
The project is about community-based people training others in areas of food education linked to promoting a healthy lifestyle through food, both in growing healthy food and then also using that healthy food to prepare meals.
Train a trainer
The food growing element of the training was led by Garden Organic’s Associate Liz Davies. She took participants through the elements of the Food for Life awards criteria, whole school approach to food education linked to the primary curriculum, organic growing in schools and also composting in schools.
Integrating organic growing with the primary curriculum focusing on Food for Life activities including school community engagement brought everything to life by using the school’s glorious growing space as a foundation for learning.
The afternoon finished with participants’ trialing practical activities highlighting health and safety considerations in schools along with curriculum planning and seed saving ideas.
Events like these help to gather bright minds and great ideas, to help build stronger, healthier communities.
If you’d like to find out more about the Soil Association Food For Life programme and related initiatives, please visit their website.
Project Learning Garden is a programme that provides starter kits to schools with everything they need to start or refresh a food growing garden and use it as an outdoor classroom. Project Learning Garden provides schools with hands-on training, curriculum linked resources, raised beds and gardening tools, a fully equipped mobile cooking cart and ongoing support and guidance.
Captain Planet Foundation is a grant-making foundation that has funded over 2,600 hands-on environmental education projects with schools and non-profits that serve children in all 50 U.S. states and in 25 countries internationally. More than 1.4 million children have directly participated in and benefited from these educational projects.
Since 2011, over 340 learning gardens have been set up in the USA, across 10 States. Due to its success, Project Learning Garden™ is now being piloted by Garden Organic in the UK.
Who can get involved?
We are looking to work with primary schools who do not have a school garden or whose garden needs re-invigorating so that it can be used effectively as an outdoor classroom during the school day.
To apply or find out more, please visit the website.
Food 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.
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 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
We’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:
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!
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.
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.
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.”
Spring is on it’s way, and with it brings a fantastic array of competitions and funding for school and community growing and outdoor learning projects. Here is a list of some of our favourites in March and April 2017, from friends and partners of Food Growing Schools: London. Apply while you can!
First up, RHS Campaign for School Gardening have three exciting competitions for schools:
RHS Schools’ Scarecrow Competition
Take a walk on the wild side and design your best wildlife-themed scarecrow to go proudly on display at this year’s Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. All pre-schools and primary schools in the South East and London are eligible to enter. Applications close on Friday 10 March 2017.
RHS Budding Gardeners 2017
All schools and groups are invited to design their best mini show garden based around the theme, Famous Five Go on a Garden Adventure, to be displayed at RHS Garden Wisley! Applications close on Monday 20 March 2017.
RHS School Gardeners of the Year 2017
Do you have students, staff or volunteers who are dedicated and passionate gardeners? Nominate your gardening stars for one of three RHS awards:
RHS Young School Gardener of the Year 2017 (a young person aged 5-16)
RHS School Gardening Champion of the Year 2017 (an adult within your school)
RHS School Gardening Team of the Year 2017 (a team of young people)
Prizes include a Gabriel Ash Classic Eight greenhouse worth £3,425, or a fantastic cold frame worth up to £699! In addition there are vouchers, gloves, tools and more to win. Nominations close on Friday 28 April 2017.
Next up, Soil Association Food For Life have a fantastic competition for member schools:
Grandparent Gardening Week Competition 27 to 31 March 2017, Nationwide
Food for Life’s (FFL) Grandparent Gardening is a great way to involve your community in school life and kick start your garden into action after the winter. Plus, FFL member schools can win a polytunnel, roll out sensory garden or Veg Trug! Just share your Grandparent Gardening Week photos on Twitter using the hashtag #FFLGGWeek. Competition deadline Friday 28 April 2017.
Garden Organic are pleased to announce that they are suppliers in Learing through Landscape’s new grants scheme:
Local School Nature Grants Programme
What do birdboxes, bee hotels, and den making kits all have in common? They are among the assortment of nature equipment and training available free to schools who enter Learning through Landscapes’ new grant scheme, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Garden Organic is a supplier in this exciting new programme which is open for applications throughout 2017.
To discover more competitions, offers and funds with deadlines in March and April 2017, visit: Competitions
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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.
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.