Three London schools launch new Edible Playgrounds

Food Growing Schools: London partner Trees for Cities have recently celebrated Edible Playground launch events at three London primary schools.

Olga Primary in Tower Hamlets, St Anne’s in Lambeth and Gallions in Newham all opened their gardens to guests as they cut the ribbon on their new outdoor growing space.

A number of dignitaries attended, including local ward councillors, members of the senior leadership teams of neighbouring schools, members of Healthy Schools London and even Mayor Christopher Wellbelove from Lambeth Council.

Mayor Christopher Wellbelove at St Anne’s with Trees for Cities staff.

There were speeches, guided tours of the garden space and performances from the children. A particular highlight was a hearing a Year 3 child from Olga Primary describe a salad dish made from tomatoes and basil from the Edible Playground: “Have you ever thought of growing your own juicy, ripe tomatoes? It is a feeling like no other, it is seriously the best feeling ever”.

Olga pupils in their cooking outfits showing their crops.

Each of the schools serves a higher than average percentage of pupils whose first language is not English and each has a higher percentage of pupils who are eligible for free school meals, indicating a higher level of deprivation that the national average.

It is urban schools like this, with little access to nature, that make ideal partners for the Edible Playgrounds programme. The Edible Playgrounds give the children a chance to learn about growing and eating healthy fruit and veg, and to connect with nature in a way that would be very difficult for them otherwise.

Growing themed bunting made by the pupils.

And the impacts on the lives of the children at these schools is tangible. Linda Ewers, Head Teacher at Olga Primary, said: “A bare playground has been transformed,” and “Our children are involved in the whole cycle of growing food – they are interested in what is growing and in the other life that can be found in the garden”.

Gallions’ Edible Playground thriving despite the summer heatwave.

If you are interested in learning more about the Edible Playground programme, and the generous match fund opportunities currently available, head to the Trees for Cities website or get in touch at info@edibleplaygrounds.org.

Lisa’s tips: how to start growing this Spring term

Lisa Grant, Engagement Officer, at the Food Growing Schools: London conference at Argyle Primary, Camden.
Lisa Grant, Engagement Officer, at the Food Growing Schools: London conference at Argyle Primary, Camden.

By Lisa Grant, FGSL Engagement Officer

Spring into Growing – help to get growing this term at your school

At Food Growing Schools: London (FGSL) we encourage and inspire schools to start growing their own food, no matter how big or how small a space you have. As Engagement Officers, my colleague Paul and I can support you in getting started. We can give you advice on the phone, run a workshop at your school, or share resources.

A great way to get started this term is to join us for  Spring into Growing 2017 – Plan it. Build it. Grow it! With our expert guidance, learn the secrets to planning and constructing your own school garden, work with recycled materials and nature in order to develop a productive growing space; all with the help of your local community.

Which Engagement Officer works where in London?

Lisa Grant – I cover these boroughs – Barking & Dagenham, Bexley, Brent, Bromley, Greenwich, Haringey, Havering, Lewisham, Newham, Redbridge and Tower Hamlets.

Paul Sadler covers these boroughs – Barnet, Camden, City of London, Croydon, Enfield, Harrow, Hillingdon, Islington, Lambeth, Southwark, Sutton, Waltham Forest and Westminster.

Find out what support FGSL can offer: Our Support.

An example school growing food – Smithy Street Primary School in Tower Hamlets

I met with the Early Years and Foundation Stage Phase Leader, Christine Hopes, at Smithy Street Primary School in Tower Hamlets towards the end of 2016.  She had the intention of starting to grow with her team of teachers and their students, in a small dedicated space outside in the playground.  Christine and I spoke about what she wanted me to cover in a bespoke workshop, and we looked at their growing space to see what was possible.  Here is some advice on how to get started:

Top tips for getting started

1.    Where – Decide on an outdoor area where you would like to start growing food.  Does it get lots of sunlight?

2.    Who – Decide on who is going to take a lead in this.  Is it a gardening club at lunchtime or after school?  Is it a phase group?  It is a parent volunteer or a member of school staff?

3.    What – Do some research.  Is there a local farm or a local community organisation that could support you in starting to grow your own food?  Have you filled out our online FGSL survey so we can help you get started?

4.    How – Get in touch with either Paul or myself after checking which boroughs we cover.  We can have a conversation by email or by phone in the first instance to get going with this great adventure in growing food.

Discover more FGSL resources to help your school get growing.

During the workshop, with another local school called Redlands Primary School, I worked with the staff to look at what plants were possible to grow at this time of year, and what small steps could be taken to start growing successfully in a manageable way.  The two schools worked together to plan how they were going to start growing and I facilitated discussions about this.

Get growing in your school this Spring

If you wish to start growing and would like support from our team, please complete our online survey FGSL survey to tell us what support you need. Then, check out our online resources this term: Spring into Growing 2017 – Sow it. Grow it. Build it!

This includes information on:
•    How to: Plan your school garden
•    How to: Construct your garden
•    How to: Work with nature in your garden
•    How to: Get help from your local community
•    Competitions and giveaways

We hope to hear from you!

Summer School Marketplace events across London

Students across London have been working hard tending to their gardens and allotments all term, and the crops have been bountiful.  Marketplace events held this month, have seen them to come together to sell the produce from their plots and the yummy treats they have made, and what a success they have been.

Kicking off in Croydon on 5th July was the borough’s first ever schools food market.  Children from 16 local schools sold their wares to Croydon residents who were delighted to grab a healthy bargain whilst helping the students to develop their business and communication skills.

CCollins_ Sharon Hodgson_Young Marketters_Borough Market 2016
MP for School Food Sharon Hodgson and Chris Collins at Young Marketters, Borough Market. Photo: Kate Groves/ Garden Organic

On 7th July Borough Market was the venue for the School Food Matters’ Young Marketeers to pitch their stalls.  Students sold a range of produce including peas, spinach, potatoes, beetroot and herbs, and their stalls proved to be as busy as the rest of the bustling market.

Amongst the crowds were the MP for School Food Sharon Hodgson, Mayor of Southwark Kath Whittam and the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark.  All proceeds from the event were donated to FareShare to provide meals for vulnerable families.

On 12th July it was the turn of Tower Hamlets to host a magnificent marketplace with students from a number of local schools offering almost everything you could think of!

Last but certainly not least some savvy students made their sales at the City Hall Schools Marketplace on Thursday 14th July.  Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and Rosie Boycott, The Mayor of London’s Food Advisor and Chair of the London Food Board, visited the stalls hosted by six London schools and was difficult to choose from the huge array of edible treats grown and made by the students.

There are many more school marketplace events happening across London throughout the year. And if you haven’t yet started on your school food growing journey, we can give you lots of free advice and support to help you on your way.

To get involved, sign up to receive our newsletter and be the first to find out where and when the next events are.

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