Schools across the borough are being invited to apply for funding that will help show children the value of good food by growing and eating their own produce.
Croydon was, last year, one of only two boroughs chosen by the Mayor of London to be granted Food Flagship status, which sees it working to tackle child obesity through better diets and food education.
In a UK first, Croydon – with fellow Food Flagship borough Lambeth – is making changes to the way food is served in schools and hospitals. And it is working with major supermarkets and other retailers to show that joined up thinking can improve the health and academic attainment of pupils, and also benefit adults in the communities they serve.
The Mayor has now teamed with the Whole Kids Foundation to pilot a programme that makes schools in the two boroughs eligible to apply for a share of the new £42,000 School Garden Grant.
The scheme gives state-funded schools in both boroughs the chance to apply for grants ranging between £300 and £3,000 to create or improve edible gardens, which will be used to educate children about the food they eat and help them to lead healthier lives.
Figures show that 10.8% of London’s children are not a healthy weight when they start primary school, and, by age 11, one in five is obese. Poor diet is linked to further complications later in life, ranging from Type 2 diabetes to cancer, while the cost to health budgets has been estimated at £5bn a year, and rising.
The scheme will consider requests for cash to provide anything from tools and training, to part-funding a school gardener. The application process closes on 4 December.
“We’re totally behind the concept of informing our children of the values of eating fresh, nutritious, whole foods.
“As a Food Flagship Borough, that’s our number-one priority and we know that, given the right opportunities, kids will get excited about fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other nutritious whole foods.
“I’d urge all our schools to apply for this funding that will help them to give our young people an attitude toward good food that will set them up for a healthy life as they get older. Together we’re growing healthy kids.”
The Mayor has teamed up with Whole Kids Foundation to deliver the School Garden Grants scheme. Whole Kids Foundation – the charitable arm of Whole Foods Market – has run the scheme in the US and Canada for five years, with impressive results. The work there has funded 3,014 school gardens, trained 8,438 teachers and served 3,796,922 students. By encouraging children to plant, nurture, harvest, cook and eat food they have grown themselves, the pilot scheme in London will help them to foster a love of good food and increase understanding of how diet impacts on health.
Rosie Boycott, chair of London Food, said: “School Garden Grants are a great way to harness the enthusiasm of teachers, children and parents toward eating more fruit, vegetables and quality, affordable food.
“Eating well helps not only to avoid health problems now and in the future, but has been shown to be a key ingredient to classroom success. Good, nutritious food helps to keep children alert during school time and to sustain them throughout the day.