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Chelsea medal winner talks the importance of food education and healthy eating in schools

by | 24 May 23 | Featured Slider, Features, Garden Design, News, Opinion, Sustainability, Topics, Website Exclusive

Food education charity, School Food Matters is celebrating its 15th year anniversary with an edible show garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, designed by Harry Holding Studios, to promote the importance of having access to nature and outdoor learning for children.

Over those 15 years, the charity has benefited hundreds of schools and 200,000 children across the UK with fully funded food education programmes, backing the message that every child in every school should have access to a garden whereby they can experience the advantages both nature and healthy eating has on one’s mental and physical health.

School Food Matters has partnered with garden designer Harry Holding of Harry Holding Studios to deliver its message to this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, through the creation of a sustainable and edible show garden.

Holding says: “School Food Matters and myself have had a relationship for two years now and we’ve been trying to get the show garden off the ground. Obviously, it’s very challenging; being a charity they don’t have loads of funds to actually fund it themselves. And then we were very fortunate to come across Project Giving Back.”

Project Giving Back is sponsoring 15 gardens at Chelsea this year, enabling several charities and organisations the opportunity to showcase the importance of their work.

The School Food Matters Garden has the needs of school children at its heart, with a landscape designed with childlike adventure in mind to encourage them to explore and be inspired by nature.

School Food Matters Garden, credit to the RHS

“The garden is an immersive and edible forageable landscape for children. It’s really about trying to highlight different food sources that are available and moving very far away from plastic wrap vegetables on supermarket shelves to really interesting, unique and kind of wacky and fun and colourful and scented and wonderful plants.

“The built elements of the garden represent the raw elements that are required for food production. So, we’ve got round earth walls that represent soil, a naturally filling shallow pool to highlight the importance of water, and colourful ribbons of flowering plants to bring that story of pollinators into the picture, which is obviously vital for food production.

“We’re honing in on the different messages that School Food Matters are about which is basically campaigning for policy change and healthy eating in children and schools. But also the practicalities of delivering green projects and educating children about plants on the ground.”

More than 80% of the garden’s planting is edible, with zero concreate used, adhering to the sustainability of the garden while offering inspiration for the public during Chelsea week and for the schools who will be receiving the garden after the show closes.

New to this year’s show, all RHS Chelsea gardens are now required to have a plan for life after the show, adding a layer of complexity and need for longevity in the designs.

“We’re taking about 75% of it to a school in Ealing in London, which is going to have the main built elements like our round earth walls.

School Food Matters Chelsea Garden, credit to the RHS

“Then about 25%, including some of the wetter loving species of plants, will go up to a school in Liverpool. We split the plants along a moisture gradient; the plants that are going to be more suited to the various environmental conditions that are present in those sort of cities.

“So, we’re not recreating the same garden; we’ll redesign and reimagine it and repurpose it for those schools and the beneficiaries to make sure it actually works for what they want and need.”

Providing safe green spaces for children in schools, who would otherwise not have the opportunity to benefit from the advantages of regularly engaging with nature, is a mission close to designer Holding’s heart – a noble cause that ensures the School Food Matters garden will continue to have a lasting impact for years to come after the show.

“The fact it is really going to benefit thousands of kids and families for decades to come is really exciting. For us , it’s one step forward. We’ve got two schools now with two edible classrooms. I think every school across the country needs to have access to an edible classroom and a garden where they can grow and engage with nature.”

Holding’s garden has been awarded a Silver Gilt medal in the All About Plants category, an outstanding achievement for the designers first appearance at Chelsea and a testimony to the garden’s lush plantation.

Visit the School Food Matters Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show which is in full swing now until 27 May.

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