News Bridging the Gap

Hackney schools cook up organic fruit and vegetables

Hackney school children are eating 100% organic fruit and vegetables in their school meals thanks to a Bridging the Gap pilot project in partnership with Growing Communities.

Hackney School Food Pilot. Credit: Growing Communities

Hackney School Food Pilot. Credit: Growing Communities

The Hackney Organic School Food project will demonstrate how schools can create healthier and more sustainable meals while also opening up new routes to market for organic, nutritious and climate-friendly food from local farms. The project is a partnership between Bridging the Gap and partners Growing Communities and inspiring head chef James Taylor who works across both Sir Thomas Abney and Harrington Hill Schools in Hackney.

Zosia Walczak, pilot lead and Senior Manager, Growing Communities, said: 

“This pilot will enable us to demonstrate how schools and other public sector organisations can access climate-friendly food that builds community wellbeing, reduces emissions and tackles waste from the farm level upwards, as well as generating more income for climate and nature-friendly farmers.” 

Harrington Hill and Sir Thomas Abney, are buying organic produce supplied by Growing Communities’ wholesale arm, the Better Food Shed, in a pilot that will run for 12 months until May 2025.

Hackney school food chef James Taylor has been buying most of the fruit and veg for school meals at the two primary schools from Growing Communities since September 2023. He was able to switch 60% of his procurement away from previous conventional suppliers to organic fruit and veg with no increase to his budget, by serving more plant-based seasonal meals and putting low-cost pulses from Hodmedod’s on his menus.

James Taylor, Hackney school chef, said:

“It’s been one of my dreams to be able to use affordable, locally farmed organic produce in my primary schools and thanks to Growing Communities, it’s finally happening.”

This pilot will enable him to increase the quantity of organic fruit and vegetables he uses in school meals to 100%.

Ander Zabala, Sustainability and Climate Service Group Manager, Hackney Council, said:

"We are incredibly proud that the Organic School Food project is being pioneered in Hackney by Growing Communities and Bridging the Gap, setting a new standard for sustainable school meals. By integrating sustainable food into our schools, we can build a healthier future for our students and our community. This type of project helps Hackney Council in its dedication to sustainable food purchasing, reducing emissions, and tackling food waste from the ground up.”

Schools on the pilot will integrate nature-friendly food and farming into school lessons and take children to visit Growing Communities’ organic growing sites in Hackney to see first-hand where food comes from.

Sustain’s Bridging the Gap programme aims to enable everyone to enjoy a universally healthy, just and sustainable food system, by reducing barriers to planet-friendly food for people experiencing low incomes. This pilot is part of a UK-wide series that will demonstrate the policies and financial mechanisms needed to bridge the gap.

Hannah Gibbs, Bridging the Gap Programme Manager, Sustain, said: 

“It's brilliant to be working with Growing Communities and James Taylor on the Hackney Organic School Food pilot. Public sector food procurement is key to increasing access to organic for everyone. This pilot will help us to demonstrate the simple steps that can be taken to get us there.” 


Published Tuesday 4 June 2024

Bridging the Gap: Bridging the Gap to climate and nature friendly food for all.

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