Children in more than half our schools are missing out because they don’t grow their own fruit and veg according to a group of experts including a celebrity gardener, an international sportsman, food charities and national supermarkets. The group have come together to encourage more schools to grow fruit and vegetables.
The Food Growing in Schools Task Force includes Blue Peter gardener Chris Collins, former England rugby union captain Lawrence Dallaglio, The Sun’s gardening correspondent and a wealth of organisations, experts and school heads including Garden Organic, the Royal Horticultural Society, Foodshare, the Women’s Institute, Co-op Farms, School Food Matters, NHS Trust and Morrison’s.
Launching the Task Force at the Chelsea Flower Show today, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:
“With fewer than half of our secondary schools involved in growing schemes, our children are missing out on a growth opportunity.
“Getting kids growing their own fruit and vegetables not only teaches them where food comes from and the importance of eating healthily, but can also teach them enterprise skills and build community spirit. That’s why we’re backing this scheme to encourage every school to be a growing school.”
The Task Force will look at schools that are already running successful growing schemes and find out what’s preventing other schools following their lead. Defra-funded research will back the Task Force with evidence on the ways that growing food can benefit children.
Blue Peter gardener and Task Force member Chris Collins said:
“We need more people to develop a passion for horticulture at a young age. What better way to do that, and teach valuable life skills at the same time, than through food growing? All sorts of life lessons can be gained through the mechanism of gardening and growing food and I am enthused that this taskforce could play a part in creating the nation’s future professional gardeners, smallholders, producers and farmers.”
Former England rugby captain and Task Force member Lawrence Dallaglio said:
“Getting children growing in school is about so many things: developing skills and providing practical experience, giving access to fresh healthy food, and the opportunity to spend time outdoors and be active. There are so many positives, and many with long-term benefits for a child’s future. I’m looking forward to looking at the evidence and seeing what the taskforce can do to ensure every child gets the same experience.”
Task Force chair and CEO of Garden Organic Myles Bremner:
“We have seen first-hand that food growing in schools has wide reaching benefits. What we must determine is how the act of getting children growing food can impact positively on areas such as the future of public health, developing skills and building communities – something we believe it can. This Task Force will look at the evidence and look at the solutions to ensure that no barriers exist to prevent any child from having the experience of growing food.”
The Task Force was formed following a year’s work by a coalition of gardening and educational charities. The Children’s Food Campaign co-authored a report called Every School a Food Growing School report with Foodshare, the Academy of Culinary Arts Chefs Adopt a School Trust, Children’s Food Campaign, Farming and Countryside Education, Farms for City Children, Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, Food for Life Partnership, Garden Organic, Good Gardeners Association, Organic Research Centre, Royal Horticultural Society and School Food Matters.
The report was supported by a number of celebrities including Alan Titchmarsh who said:
“Connecting children with the earth is vital for their own wellbeing and that of the planet. Not only should they know what they are eating, they should also understand how it grows. That way they are assured of a healthy future. It’s fun, too!”
Mark Desvaux, Chairman of Foodshare and member of the Task Force, welcomed its announcement and formation saying:
“It is testament to the effort and passion put in by all the organisations over the last year that Defra and other government departments have agreed with the recommendations of the report to form a Task Force to look into the benefits of Food Growing in Schools. We often take food for granted but it is so essential to examine the educational benefits that our school children will gain by having access to food growing spaces, both now and in the long-term.”