Planting seeds for the future
The benefits of food growing with children are impressive and far-reaching, says Jane Baker.
When children engage in growing food, they experience a wide range of benefits including improved physical and mental health, increased academic attainment and a better awareness of environmental issues. Supporting and encouraging schools to incorporate food-growing in school life makes sense, as evaluation of the Food Growing Schools: London (FGSL) project has revealed.
FGSL is a partnership of six organisations, led by Garden Organic, launched in 2013 as a response to the Food Growing in Schools Taskforce Report. Supported by the Mayor of London, the partnership including London Food Link’s Capital Growth team, Soil Association Food For Life, Royal Horticulture Society, School Food Matters and Trees for Cities aims to inspire and equip every school in London to grow their own food, giving thousands of young Londoners the chance to learn new skills and make positive differences in their lives.
But there’s more. FGSL’s Grow Your Own Business guide, for example, offers pupils the opportunity to gain wider enterprise, marketing and communication skills. In autumn 2016, the initiative helped children from 10 London schools to peddle their wares at the City Hall Schools’ Marketplace, run in partnership with Capital Growth. Opening the event, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I want to help Londoners to have access to better food, and lead healthier lifestyles, so it’s great to see these young people growing their own grub and developing entrepreneurial skills.”
Evaluation of the project showed that of participating schools; 87% reported more pupils became involved in food growing, 93% reported pupils enhanced their skills and confidence in food growing, 79% reported pupils became more aware of the wider benefits of food growing (e.g. to the environment), over half reported pupils’ behaviour, attention and/or attainment were enhanced, and many reported pupils increased their daily intake of fruit and vegetables.
In 2018, FGSL continues to support school food growing by sharing the Grow Your Own Picnic activity guide, free seeds, prizes and resources as schools celebrate the fruits of their labour by tucking into healthy school grown produce and sharing it with their friends, families and wider communities. Find out how your school can get involved at www.foodgrowingschools.org
This is an updated version of a feature that first appeared in The Jellied Eel magazine issue 53, February 2017