The Mayor of London’s food adviser, Rosie Boycott, has hailed Croydon’s Food Flagship programme a success for helping the borough’s schools, residents and businesses tackle the obesity epidemic and eat more nutritious meals.
Sprucing up vegetable plots, chomping fresh salads, ditching fry-ups, and digesting less sugar are just a few of the invaluable habits they have embraced from the Flagship.
During a celebration event hosted at City Hall to mark the end of the two-year programme, Councillor Louisa Woodley, cabinet member for families, health and social care, called for more to be done to stem the number of unhealthy fast-food businesses in the borough to support the Flagship’s legacy work.
Going forward, this work will include efforts for more businesses to sign up to the EatWell Croydon scheme to get them using healthier cooking methods and improving menus for customers.
The Flagship legacy will also help Croydon to become a sugar-smart borough and a signatory to The Local Government Declaration on Sugar Reduction and Healthier Food, an initiative that helps local authorities tackle the proliferation and marketing of unhealthy food and drinks. Plus, more schools will be offered Food Flagship status to further embed healthy eating into their curriculum.
Croydon and Lambeth were chosen to be the capital’s first Food Flagship boroughs to deliver projects that contribute towards tackling obesity among children and adults and supporting families to live longer and healthier lives.
The work in Croydon received funding for two years from the council, Mayor of London and Department of Education.
Some of the successes from the two-year Flagship programme are captured in a video on YouTube, which has testimonials from children and adults who benefited from the food projects.
Three in four of the residents who attended a Food Flagship cooking course at the Community Food Learning Centre (CFLC) in New Addington reported now eating fewer takeaway meals.
One participant commented, “I was drinking six to eight Red Bulls a day, along with my son, and mainly eating takeaways. I have now made quite a few changes to my whole diet and feel a lot better in myself, both mentally and physically.”
The wider achievements from Croydon’s Food Flagship programme to date include:
- Up to 21 schools benefiting from the healthy eating skills offered by Croydon’s three Food Flagship Schools – Rockmount Primary, Fairchildes Primary and Meridian High.
- 57 schools increasing their food-growing activities with pupils.
- A new Croydon School Food Plan, and staff training in food preparation, leading to healthier menus at breakfast and afterschool clubs and lunchtimes, and more kids eating school meals.
- More than 300 residents attending cooking and nutrition or horticultural courses at the CFLC in New Addington.
- Three Edible Playgrounds built across four schools encouraging pupils to grow their own fruit and vegetables and consume the fresh produce.
- A new pop-up healthy food zone in partnership with local entrepreneurs and Croydon College.
- Residents who received training as ‘Master Gardeners’ and ‘Food Buddies’ clocked up in excess of 1,000 hours of conversations with the public about food growing and nutrition.
“We are committed to transforming the food culture in Croydon. Part of the legacy from the Food Flagship will be a continuation of our plans to reduce obesity in the borough. It is important that we do not only expect our schools to deliver on this work.
“More food businesses need to increase their healthy offer and improve cooking methods by signing up to the EatWell Croydon scheme. We also hope to see the charity Good Food Matters continue its fantastic work at the Community Food Learning Centre and reach out to even more residents.”
Councillor Alisa Flemming, cabinet member for children, young people and learning
“Croydon’s Food Flagship has benefited so many of our schools. The pupils, teaching staff and parents involved now know a great deal more about eating nutritious meals, which has a positive impact on how well the children do at school.
“The Edible Playgrounds have provided hands-on experience of growing food and have encouraged more of them to taste new and different types of food.”
Rosie Boycott, chair of the London Food Board, said: “Croydon has made fantastic progress with helping residents to improve their lifestyles and fight ill-health. More children are now eating healthier school meals, and residents have really welcomed opportunities to boost their cooking skills and grow their own fruit, vegetables and herbs.
“I now hope that more schools around the country will adopt Croydon’s model of having a food improvement officer in place to support schools with this area of teaching.”