Charity Awards 2024

Trees for Cities

Transforming urban school playgrounds into gardens

Around one in five children are obese by the time they leave primary school. Schools have a vital role in supporting the physical and mental health of young people – and Edible Playgrounds has helped them do so for over a decade, by providing places where pupils can grow their own food and explore other “greening” opportunities.

Trees for Cities

Beckenham Place Park planting day. Photo by Luca Radek

Schools get shrubs, trees and greenery; children get to learn about where food comes from, as well as the chance to eat some of what they grow; and teachers even get horticultural training to make sure the programme is sustainable.

Since piloting the first Edible Playground in 2008 in a primary school in Islington, Trees for Cities expanded the scheme to other schools across London. From there the initiative moved to Sheffield and Liverpool, with the model tweaked to work more closely with local partners in those cities.

The charity has now created 100 edible playgrounds in 12 cities across the UK, which it says has benefited 60,000 children and 5,000 teachers. The schools are all in areas of high deprivation – and the programme outcomes show a strong, positive impact on the health and education of the children involved.

Edible Playgrounds was invited to partner with the Mayor of London’s Food Growing Schools scheme, as well as the 2015-2017 London Food Flagship programme.

Charity Awards judge Andy Pitt said the project “tugs at the heartstrings”, tackling as it does themes of nature and greening as well as children’s health and wellbeing. He was also impressed with the business model: “They’ve developed good, longer funding partnerships. The school pays a bit, they’ve got a diversified funding stream, it’s being scaled up, and it is innovative. And they’ve made good use of recycling and those sorts of things to try and reduce costs. It’s got lots of things going for it.”

Ruth Davison said: “I thought it was a really strong project. I loved their learning approach, I thought their monitoring, evaluation and impact measurement was really strong, they had great communications, great partnerships, high demand from schools and from funders, and they are highly collaborative.”

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