Croydon council's programme involves working with schools, families, businesses and the community to change the way they think about food.
The Food Flagship programme, funded by the Mayor of London and the Department of Education, aims to change the food culture in the borough, starting with schools and families and, through businesses and workplaces, into the wider community.
Improving food in schools is one of the council’s main objectives. The council supports school breakfast clubs to offer healthier food options and more pupils are eating school meals. There are also new cooking classes to teach children about healthy eating.
The latest figures show the uptake of infant free school meals has increased from 81% (January 2015) to 84.6% (January 2016). The uptake of school meals at key stage 2 has increased from 53% (January 2015) to 61.8% (January 2016). 372 school staff have attended training, focusing on breakfast clubs, packed lunches, cooking and nutrition, food growing and the best way to involve parents.
Croydon has also created vibrant outdoor spaces to educate, engage and inspire children about growing fruit and vegetables. Edible Playgrounds have been developed by Trees for Cities in Rockmount Primary, Fairchildes Primary and Meridian High – the borough’s showcase Food Flagship schools – as well as St Giles’ School. The playgrounds have raised beds, allotment style food growing areas, greenhouses and irrigation systems. Croydon also has a Community Food Learning Centre in New Addington, which offers a range of cooking and horticultural courses for children and parents.
The Flagship team has been busy promoting healthy food at a series of events. These include the borough’s first Schools’ Food Market. Children from 16 Croydon schools ran stalls selling fruit, vegetables, herbs, jams and chutneys they had grown or made at their school.
The Flagship team has recently worked with 20 local entrepreneurs to develop their business plans. Participants had a vision to provide healthy alternatives to the dominant fast food takeaway culture. During an 8-week training course, they covered the basics of setting up and running a food business.