PUPILS and staff from Stokes Wood Primary School have been helping to launch Leicester’s new Food Plan.
To mark the launch of the plan – a five-year strategy aimed at making Leicester a ‘healthy and sustainable food city’ – the school hosted a themed lunch, with options including frittata and cheese flan made using locally-sourced Leicestershire eggs.
Also helping to launch the new plan were members of a community garden project at Holden Street Allotments, in Belgrave. Here, the city council has worked with The Conservation Volunteers and Leicester Community Links to encourage food growing in the community.
Stokes Wood is a Soil Association Food for Life school, which means it takes part in a national awards scheme to help pupils learn more about where food comes from, how to grow it, and practical cooking skills. Leicester City Council’s public health team – which has developed the Food Plan – also provides support for local schools to take part in Food for Life.
This is the city’s second Food Plan, and will run from 2021-2026. Among its ambitions are:
- Supporting people to make healthier food choices
- Tackling food poverty
- Helping communities to get access to, and an understanding of, good food
- Working with businesses to develop a responsible food economy, including making good food buying decisions; and
- Promoting sustainable food choices to help address the climate emergency.
It will build on the successes of the first Food Plan, which include a flourishing city-wide community gardening programme. This has already awarded small grants to more than 60 community groups and 50 schools to support food growing activity; held more than 70 workshops and events, engaging with 1,200 people; and worked with allotment societies to develop starter plots, community gardens and orchards.
Deputy city mayor Cllr Adam Clarke, who leads on environment, said: “Leicester’s Food Plan is an ambitious long-term programme which began when the first plan was developed in 2014. It aimed to tackle food poverty, see more community food projects in place across the city, support a thriving good food economy and develop new food growing initiatives.
“Since then we’ve had considerable success with our community food growing projects, while initiatives like our holiday food schemes have helped to tackle the ongoing issue of food poverty. We know there’s more to be done, but we’re pleased that this new plan will be able to build on the success of such schemes.
“Schools are a great place to share these messages, because children then take them home to their parents. It’s great to see schools like Stokes Wood embracing the Food for Life programme and recognising the importance of healthy and sustainable food in our communities.”
Cllr Vi Dempster, assistant city mayor for public health, said: “We have a number of challenges, including diet-related ill health, unacceptable levels of food poverty and the environmental impact of food production, but we’re determined to tackle these.
“Initiatives like our food growing projects are so important to local communities, particularly in addressing social isolation and increasing community spirit.
“This Food Plan sets out our long-term, strategic approach to these issues, showing how we intend to make a difference for the benefit of all Leicester residents.”
Jane Gadsby, headteacher at Stokes Wood Primary School, said: ““We have been developing our Food For Life work since achieving the bronze award in 2016. To achieve the silver award, we needed to ensure our pupils understand the importance of reducing food waste.
“Our favourite part of this has been working with a local farmer and we have been receiving weekly videos from Manor Farm in Burton Overy. Next academic year, children will be visiting in person.
“Families have also taken part in the Cook and Eat project, which we plan to continue. And our proudest achievement during the covid-19 pandemic is the provision and delivery of well over 2,000 healthy food parcels to our families, through Leicester City Council’s City Catering, Giving World, Fare Share, Leicester City FC, the Samworth Brothers and the Nida Foundation.”
Among the initiatives outlined in the new ‘action plan’ section of the strategy are plans to increase the take-up of Healthy Start vouchers, which are available to families on a low income to buy fruit and veg. There are also plans to set up food pantries – where community venues offer low-cost food to members – and ideas for a catering awards scheme for organisations, ‘Food for Life Served Here’.
The action plan will be reviewed each year.
To read Leicester’s new Food Plan in full, go to www.leicester.gov.uk/foodplan
Picture shows Year 6 Stokes Wood pupil Tyo O’Rourke enjoying a school lunch