Edible playground

Portsmouth Friends of the Earth has set up a school gardening scheme – Grow to Eat Well. Now it’s got schools in the rest of the city in its sights.

John Auric, a member of the group since 1979, tells us more.

How did it start?

We'd been promoting composting in local schools and noticed that some schools were struggling to maintain their gardens.

We wondered if there was a way to use these spaces to encourage students and local communities to grow vegetables and learn horticultural skills.

The schools we approached were excited by the idea. That's when things began to take off.

The group applied to the Big Lottery Local Food Fund for a grant. They got it.

It's early days (the project started in March 2010) but it's already bringing people together.

Grow to Eat Well project, Portsmouth

The aim is to encourage schools to give time and space to vegetable plots, and  introduce students to gardening and growing food.

For us… it's is a way of making the message of sustainability real at a local level.

So, what do the kids think of it?

I love being outside and being able to dig. It's fun… and I really like being able to get dirty without being told off.

Jake, 15

We don't have a garden at home and I've never worked in one before. When school is busy and noisy it's good to know you've got this to look forward to. It's chilled.

Steven, 13

Pupils working on the Grow to Eat Well project

And the teachers?

When [the kids] grow things it raises their confidence. This is an inner-city area and a lot of our students don't have access to gardens and green space. We don't even have a playing field here, but we do have this.

Steven King, Charter Academy Teacher.

What's next?

We hope it will quickly become a volunteer community project that helps old and young in the school catchment areas work together and improve their lifestyles.

We plan to roll it out to half the city's 70 schools over the next 3 years.

Grow to Eat Well in Portsmouth Schools was voted Campaign of the year 2010 during our recent Earthmovers Awards.

This article is based on a feature from Earthmatters, Friends of the Earth's supporter magazine. Join to receive your copy.

Get involved

There are over 200 local Friends of the Earth groups around the country. Find out how you can make a difference in your community.