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Mayor launches ’Capital Growth’ to boost locally grown food in London

Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Rosie Boycott, Chair of London Food, today launched an innovative scheme to turn 2,012 pieces of land into thriving green spaces to grow food by 2012.

Capital Growth – the first initiative delivered by Rosie Boycott in her capacity as Chair of London Food - aims to identify suitable patches of land around London and offer financial and practical support to groups of enthusiastic gardeners or organisations who want to grow food for themselves and for the local community. It is expected that a range of organisations will open up land to the scheme including borough councils, schools, hospitals, housing estates, utilities companies and parks. There are already community groups growing food on land across London - Capital Growth will help to expand these organisations whilst encouraging new ones.

The Mayor today announced the first organisations to pledge land to Capital Growth, these are:

* Blenheim Gardens housing estate in Brixton, to be run by social housing residents;
* A large privately owned residential garden in Morden, where local volunteers will grow and share the harvest;
* Latchmere House resettlement prison in Richmond, which will grow food for the canteen and run horticulture and catering training with prisoners to improve skills and employment prospects.

Boosting the amount of locally grown food in London makes economic sense at a time of rising food prices, and it also has a range of health and environmental benefits, such as improving access to nutritious food in urban areas and helping to increase flood protection. There is rising interest in self-grown food and inner London boroughs have waiting lists for allotments that can be decades long.

Boris Johnson said:

’Linking up currently unloved patches of land with people who want to discover the wonders of growing their own food, delivers massive benefits. It will help to make London a greener, more pleasant place to live whilst providing healthy and affordable food. This will aid people to reconnect with where their fruit and veg comes from and cut the congestion and carbon emissions associated with the transportation of food from miles away. Capital Growth is a win-win scheme - good for our communities and good for our environment.’

Rosie Boycott said:

’London has a good deal of green spaces – some derelict or underused - but not being used as well as they could be. We also have a veritable host of enthusiastic gardeners who are well equipped to turning derelict or underused spaces into thriving oases offering healthy food and a fantastic focus for the community. Capital Growth will identify spaces across the capital – often in surprising places such as roof gardens - and help London’s communities grow their own food.’

Monty Don, gardening expert and TV presenter, said:

’Growing your own is the most direct route to delicious, healthy food. It is also immensely satisfying. Anyone can do it, anywhere, and if we all grow a little then together we can make a huge difference to our food supply.’

Capital Growth will be run by London Food Link, part of the charity Sustain who are working for better food and farming to enhance people’s health and welfare and the environment. The pilot stage of the scheme running until March 2009 will identify and support the first 50 spaces, and is being funded by the London Development Agency. Beyond this, Sustain will be seeking future funding for Capital Growth, with the support of London Food.

Ben Reynolds, coordinator of London Food Link, said:

’We are delighted to be working with the Mayor of London to transform our city with 2,012 new food growing spaces. People from all over London are already contacting us, keen to be involved in Capital Growth.’

Bonnie Hewson, a housing estate resident from Blenheim Gardens, the first new food growing space in the Capital Growth initiative, said:

’Residents on my estate are very excited about Capital Growth – everyone from children to older people will be growing more of their own fresh food. Being part of Capital Growth will help to raise the profile of our work and get more people involved.’ 

Publication date: 11/6/2008


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