Last night, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) revealed the results of the Oscars of community gardening. To coincide with this, world-renowned chef Raymond Blanc is calling on communities to grow their own fresh produce as a healthier, safer option that could help ease hardship for families in deprived urban communities who have difficult choices to make when buying food.
Raymond helped launch ‘Edible Britain' in April, the theme of RHS Britain in Bloom 2013, in which 1,000 mini allotments were set up in public spaces across the UK including inner-city London, Manchester, Glasgow and Newcastle and are now being harvested and enjoyed by communities.*
The RHS drive to get communities to grow their own was championed last night at the prestigious annual RHS Britain in Bloom UK Finals Award ceremony when Bath received the ‘Edible Britain' award for embracing the campaign across the city and many finalists were recognised for their efforts, like Woolton (Liverpool) who impressed judges with their allotments and won the Urban Community category and Lytham (Lancashire) who won RHS Champion of Champions 2013.**
Raymond, who in the summer joined Watlington in Bloom, an RHS Britain in Bloom 2013 finalist, said: "Many children in Britain are going to school hungry because their families can't afford to buy supermarket food. This is happening when there are public spaces that aren't being used in cities and towns around Britain.
"There are great examples by RHS Britain in Bloom groups like 2013 finalist The Meadows in Nottingham - residents took charge of a fly-tipping site and turned it into an organic farm which serves 7,000 local people in the area. They are growing delicious fresh fruit and vegetables with no chemicals or energy being wasted on transportation, people are eating healthily and children are learning about the origins of their food."
Guy Barter, RHS Chief Horticultural Advisor, said: "Eating home-grown fruit and vegetables is important for two key reasons. Firstly, we waste an unbelievable amount. The latest figures suggest around 15 million tons of food a year gets thrown out and 50 per cent of this comes from our own households. Not only will people simply be less inclined to discard produce that has been grown in their back yard, or in the local community, but also appreciate the effort and care needed to grow food and value it more.
"Another good reason is the quality of the food grown in this way. While, realistically, home-grown food is not going to put farmers out of work, consuming fresh produce close to where it is grown saves transport and packaging, and of course food will be fresher. It will of course also often be cheaper which will benefit low-income families who struggle to meet the rising costs of supermarket food."
77 RHS Britain in Bloom 2013 finalists celebrated their results in Cleethorpes last night but these towns, cities and villages are just the tip of the ice burg when it comes to community gardening. In total, there are more than 3,300 Britain in Bloom groups who look after an estimated 2 million acres of public space. More than a third are responsible for regenerating disused land into food-growing areas for the benefit of the whole community.
For more information about RHS Britain in Bloom visit rhs.org.uk/communities.