The Prince of Wales and Jamie Oliver went to celebrate the achievements of Carshalton Boys Sports College in Sutton, London, in transforming their school food culture.
Carshalton has been supported by the Food for Life Partnership, launched in 2007, which offers schools across England expert support from the Soil Association, Garden Organic, Focus on Food and the Health Education Trust. More than 4,400 schools have already joined this national network – strongly supported by The Prince of Wales - to get involved in cooking and growing activities, visiting farms and serving healthy school meals.
Carshalton has been helped to get pupils growing their own food by one-to-one support from a garden education officer and a wealth of additional resources from Garden Organic. Every boy at the school now has a chance to experience the excitement of growing and eating their own produce and parents have even been given free window boxes with everything needed to do the same at home.
With many changes in food education and much healthier catering, Carshalton has produced dramatic results. Only 20 per cent of the children chose to eat school meals eight years ago – now it is 90 per cent.
Garden Organic Chief Executive Myles Bremner said: “Carshalton offers great inspiration for any school out there that feels encouraging its pupils to eat healthy food is an impossible challenge. This school has really proved that with strong leadership and a huge team effort on the part of pupils, staff, the community and charities like ourselves, we can offer our children healthy school dinners that they will be queuing up to be first in line for.”
The charity Garden Organic was also chosen to lead the government-backed Food Growing in Schools Taskforce, involving 25 key organisations, in 2011. This taskforce published a report in March, this year, proving for the first time the benefits of giving children a chance to grow their own food. The report offers compelling evidence showing how food growing in schools can help pupils to achieve, build life and employability skills, and improve their health and wellbeing.
During his speech, The Prince of Wales, who is patron of Garden Organic, said: “The Food for Life Partnership has made a fantastic difference in drawing people’s attention to the importance of reconnecting children to where their food comes from, how it grows and then how we eat it. That connection is absolutely crucial.
“I think most of you will have known already about the work of the Food Growing in Schools taskforce, which was convened by Garden Organic. It does show that there really is a clear link between time spent learning about gardening and success in the classroom, especially in the crucial STEM subjects. So growing food quite literally brings these subjects to life.”
While The Prince of Wales and Jamie Oliver were given a tour of Carshalton, Garden Organic led a debate involving more than 20 representatives from schools, communities, charities and businesses. Their discussion focused on the specific role of food education in schools and how to tackle the barriers preventing every school from effectively teaching their students about healthy eating.
Carshalton head teacher Simon Barber believes food growing in the 16 raised beds at his school has played a crucial role in its success. “I just think it is amazing that this tiny scrap of land has had such a massive impact on the school – it has helped to change the whole approach to food here,” he said. “We have worked hard, but there is just this relentless enthusiasm,” he added. “The boys are really interested in eating well now.”
Members of Carshalton’s after-school Mud Club were delighted to receive a royal visit. Pupil James Needham, aged 14, said: “The Prince of Wales came along and asked me what I was doing. I said I was growing herbs and he asked what type of herbs. I said that’s oregano, rosemary, lemon thyme and mint.
“I was really excited, but I was also nervous in case I got it wrong or something,” he added. “I definitely never thought The Prince of Wales would come to our garden. It’s a privilege really, a once in a lifetime opportunity. I mean the future King of England – it’s something to be really proud of.”
Garden Organic is calling on any schools, parents or communities who want to get involved in its educational food growing activities to visit www.gardenorganic.org.uk/schools.
For further information and high quality images please contact Garden Organic PR Manager Sarah Moran on 024 7621 7707 or firstname.lastname@example.org.