On your marks, get set, grow!
Olympic inspired funding helps Stratford’s young foyer residents create a food growing oasis.
Residents at our Focus E15 foyer in Stratford are growing their own five-a-day, after transforming a disused foyer courtyard in to a lush allotment.
Taking inspiration from the Olympics’ drive for more sustainable living, the foyer residents went the distance, clearing the area of rubbish, building five raised food growing beds and planting the kind of healthy foods they want to eat.
The courtyard now contains carrots, potatoes, lettuce, strawberries, raspberries and a variety of herbs. Residents have been using the food in healthy eating workshops where they learn about the health benefits of different foods and how to use these foods to prepare healthy meals.
The project has been funded using an Inspiring Sustainable Living grant from the Department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra). Defra aims to use the 2012 Olympics as inspiration to give local communities practical and achievable ways to live more sustainably. For Focus E15 foyer, this means improving the residents' understanding of healthy eating and food growing.
New Focus E15 resident, Kathleen, said: “At first when they said come and learn about food and healthy eating, I thought that I already knew all about it but I’ve learnt so much. Like how to use fruit for natural sugars instead of using artificial sweeteners. It’s surprising. And we cook with sage and rosemary and spinach from the garden. It tastes better than food from the supermarket, where they use stuff to preserve the food, so it doesn’t have as much flavour or scent as the food we grow. Our strawberries are really, really sweet, sweeter than the ones in the supermarket and cheaper too, because it only costs a few pence to buy the seeds. There’s nothing I’ve learnt here that I can’t use when I leave the foyer.”
And it’s not just healthy living skills that the residents are developing, the project has brought residents together and transformed an unsightly patch of land outside the foyer’s mother and baby units.
Focus E15 resident and one of the keenest food growers on the project, Meshack McLean, said: “Anyone at the foyer who shows an interest can get involved, it’s about team work. To tell you the truth, I find it joyful. I’m happy that we can change things, change the environment and it’s a good use of space. This place has a lot of potential and a lot of people have noticed the work we’ve done. It’s different and it’s nice to do something that’s active, outdoors and we’re learning something.”
Julia Woodstock, East Thames’ delivery support coordinator, said: “It has been a real pleasure to see some of the young people’s curiosity piqued and to see their amazement when they see the seeds they planted a few weeks ago flourish in to something they can cook and eat.”