Two special schools have won £200 each towards plants and gardening equipment after entering a competition to design a garden capable of growing food for the healthiest packed lunch in Essex. The Healthy Packed Lunch Plot Competition was open to all primary and special schools in Essex. It encouraged pupils to design a kitchen garden plot and create a recipe for a healthy packed lunch using its produce.
The competition, part of the Growing Communities project, was sponsored by Perrywood Garden Centre, Kings Seeds, Augustine Courtauld Trust and Royal Horticultural Society. The Growing Communities project is managed by the Rural Community Council of Essex (RCCE) and encourages young people to eat healthily, understand and learn about food provenance whilst capturing their imaginations. It helps assist with creating links between generations, enabling shared knowledge and promotes working with communities.
To enter the competition, pupils designed a kitchen garden plot which could be easily grown at school or at home. They then imagined what a delicious healthy packed lunch could look like if it was made using the produce from the plot plus some additional ingredients such as pasta, couscous and rice.
With mouth-watering entries coming in from across the county, the judges (Nicholas Charrington, RCCE Chairman, Hannah Powell, Perrywood Garden Centre and Andrew Tokely, Kings Seeds) had the difficult task of selecting the overall winner.
From sweet fruity creations to scrummy savory dishes, all the entries showcased the children’s green-fingered aspirations and culinary creativity. Judges were particularly looking for an easy-to-prepare healthy packed lunch dish, which included a variety of different produce.
After a tough judging process, Owen Vilday, 14, from Cedar Hall School in Benfleet was the winner in the special school category, while Suzzie Appiah, 12, from Harlow Fields School in Harlow, was the runner up in the same category.
The overall winner was eight-year-old Rebecca Warder from Notley Green Primary School in Braintree, who received £750 worth of plants and gardening equipment from Perrywood for her school. Rebecca’s winning design will be re-created in a garden at the school with RCCE and Hannah Powell from Perrywood Garden Centre.
Seasoned judge from Kings Seeds Horticultural Director Andrew Tokely commented: “The competition this year as usual was very challenging. The general standard was very high and choosing the eventual winners took much discussion and deliberation.
'Owen's healthy packed lunch plot was well thought out and acheivable to plant and grow'
“Owen’s Cedar Hall plot was well thought out and achievable to plant and grow and the recipe was also capable to cook and prepare.”
Hannah Powell, Communications and HR Manager at Perrywood comments: “The Growing Communities project encouraged students from across Essex to get green-fingered and unleash the budding gardeners within. We are so thrilled Harlow Fields School, which provides support for students with learning difficulties and those with autism spectrum disorder, got on board and encouraged their students to enter this competition.
“Suzzie’s entry impressed all of the judges and we hope she takes her interest in gardening further with the amazing prize package she won for her school.
“Gardening is inclusive for everyone, of every age and every ability. From huge trees to tiny succulents, all plants can have a positive impact on the way we feel. We hope this campaign has encouraged schools and students to try their hand at gardening and take advantage of the many benefits it can bring.”
The other runners up (who also won prizes of £200 towards school plants and gardening equipment) were Flynn Gibaud, five, from Wentworth Primary School in Maldon and Finlay Addison, eight, from Down Hall Primary School in Rayleigh.
Hannah adds: “Gardening is proven to be good for you in many ways – from providing fresh air & exercise through to connecting with nature & taking a break from our busy connected world. At Perrywood we love introducing children to growing and tasting their own food, and who knows we might even inspire some budding gardeners along the way. We’d love every school in Essex to be able to grow and taste fruit and vegetables, and this competition will kick start this activity in the winning schools.”
She continues: “Selecting the winners was a difficult decision, however we hope that every pupil who submitted entries is inspired to get outside and get creative in the garden and the kitchen – at home or at school.”
Rural Community Council of Essex (RCCE) is an independent charity, supporting people and places in rural Essex. Established in 1929, RCCE helps rural communities achieve a thriving and sustainable future by addressing issues, such as social isolation, poor access to services and a shortage of affordable housing, that are crucial to people living and working in rural Essex today. RCCE supports community projects in rural areas and represents the needs of rural communities to statutory authorities.