Food Growing Schools: City strategies for food system sustainability

Can every city be a food growing city?

How can lessons learned from Food Growing Schools: London’s project successes be applied to supporting the development of more sustainable food systems?

Food Growing Schools: London project elevators from the University of the West of England and University of Cardiff have assessed our work since the project was launched and have used their findings to examine how cities can support innovative strategies to respond to new challenges in food systems.

This article in the journal Sustainability discusses and explores some key points in the winder context, as the abstract outlines:

“Cities have emerged as leaders in food system innovation and transformation, but their potential can be limited by the absence of supportive governance arrangements.

This study examined the value of Food Growing Schools London (FGSL) as a programme seeking city-wide change through focusing on one dimension of the food system. Mixed methods case study research sought to identify high-level success factors and challenges.

Findings demonstrate FGSL’s success in promoting food growing by connecting and amplifying formerly isolated activities. Schools valued the programme’s expertise and networking opportunities, whilst strategic engagement facilitated new partnerships linking food growing to other policy priorities.

Challenges included food growing’s marginality amongst priorities that direct school and borough activity. Progress depended on support from
individual local actors so varied across the city. London-wide progress was limited by the absence of policy levers at the city level.

Experience from FGSL highlights how city food strategies remain
constrained by national policy contexts, but suggests they may gain traction through focusing on well-delineated, straightforward activities that hold public appeal.

Sustainability outcomes might then be extended through a staged approach using this as a platform from which to address other
food issues.”

Continue reading the full article here.

Author information

Hannah Pitt, Sustainable Places Institute, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3BA,Wales, UK

Mat Jones, Bristol Centre for Public Health and Wellbeing, University of the West of England, Bristol BS16 1QY, UK; matthew.jones@uwe.ac.uk

Emma Weitkamp, Science Communication Unit, University of the West of England, Bristol BS16 1QY, UK; emma.weitkamp@uwe.ac.uk

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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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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