Garden Organic, the UK’s leading organic growing charity, has received £804,994 from the Big Lottery Fund towards an ambitious project that will seek to help every school in London to become a food growing school.
The Food Growing Schools: London project will see Garden Organic work in partnership with ‘Capital Growth’, Food For Life Partnership, Greater London Authority, Morrisons Let’s Grow
Programme and the Royal Horticultural Society’s Campaign For School Gardening to deliver food growing into all London schools over the next three years. The project has evolved from the Defra-supported Food Growing in Schools Taskforce*, which identified a need for more support in developing food growing activity in schools.
The Food Growing Schools: London project will work to strengthen and build upon existing activity to support all schools in London to fully embed food growing into school life. The ultimate aim is to demonstrate how every school and the community it serves can benefit from food growing, so that school leaders, staff and volunteers have the skills and confidence to get involved.
Initially, Garden Organic and its partners will survey all London schools to see what help they need. Once completed by the end of 2013, the project will find ways to support all London schools to increase the effectiveness of their food growing activities or start growing food if they are not yet a food growing school.
Colette Bond, Garden Organic’s Head of Education, said: “Garden Organic is delighted that the Food Growing Schools: London project has received such generous funding from the Big Lottery Fund.
“It will enable Garden Organic and our project partners to deliver on our aim to get every school in London involved in growing their own food. We know that growing your own food has lots of benefits – health, environment, community and educational, so being able to support schools and the wider community to start or develop their growing is fantastic.
“This funding will also enable Food Growing Schools: London to signpost organisations experienced in food growing, volunteers, businesses and schools to each other to make this important work happen. London has the opportunity to become a beacon of good practice and an example to be replicated by other cities around the UK.”
Actions for the project include showcasing best practice and the benefits of food growing to schools, development of a volunteer network and helping schools hook-up with supporting companies and groups. There will also be training opportunities for school staff and volunteers, support to find funding for food growing equipment and a new website to match schools and supporting organisations.
The Mayor Of London, Boris Johnson, said: “Encouraging kids to grow food reaps a crop of educational, social and environmental benefits that go way beyond the school gate. We’ve seen from the success of our food growing initiative Capital Growth, that London is nurturing a renaissance in urban food growing. Today’s funding announcement from the Big Lottery Fund is an enormous coup which will propel forward our goal to help even more schools in London to get growing.”
Nat Sloane, Big Lottery Fund England Chair added: “At the Big Lottery Fund we are very keen to explore and fund new ideas that have the potential to bring wide-reaching benefits to our communities.
“Benefits of food growing at schools are well documented and while the Food Growing Schools: London project is indeed an ambitious undertaking, if the largest city in the UK can find a way to embed food growing in every school and release the benefits for their pupils, then there is scope for it to happen everywhere.”
*Garden Organic was chosen to lead the government-backed Food Growing in Schools Taskforce involving 25 key organisations in 2011.This taskforce published a report in March 2012, which brought together evidence for the first time of the benefits of giving children a chance to grow their own food.
The report offered compelling evidence showing how food growing in schools can help pupils to achieve, build life and employability skills, and improve their health and wellbeing. Defra’s survey for the Taskforce identified that 70% of London schools do some food growing, but needed to be done to engage the 30% not taking part in food growing programmes.