Celebrity chef Cyrus Todiwala opens edible playground at St Paul’s Whitechapel school

Pupils at St Paul's Whitechapel thrilled at growing their own food

Pupils at St Paul's Whitechapel thrilled at growing their own food - Credit: Trees for Cities

Children have turned their outdoor space at school into an ‘edible playground’ in London’s East End where they grow their own food.

Celebrity chef and restaurateur Cyrus Todiwala opened the garden venture at St Paul’s Whitechapel Primary, just walking distance from his Café Spice Namaste restaurant near Tower Hill, before the children broke-up for the summer.

It is part of a project by Trees for Cities charity to give schools in inner cities the chance to grow food in their playgrounds.

“Children will appreciate food most if they know where it comes from,” Cyrus explained. “We don’t always understand what farmers do, being in the middle of the city, so this project exposes children to nature and its provenance.”

He promises to buy produce harvested in the playground by the children for his restaurant in nearby Prescot Street.

The pupils have been growing lettuce, spinach, lalshak, chard, peas, beans, tomatoes and potatoes.

Their ‘edible playground’ at the school in Wellclose Square also has a herb garden with sensory plants and a pollinator section to attract bees, butterflies and other insects to help the plants grow. A rhubarb patch is flourishing in one corner, along with edible flowers, willow teepees and a wormery to create compost for healthy soil.

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Sharon Johnson, from Trees for Cities, said: “Absence of natural green spaces in inner cities creates a lack of knowledge about origins of food and how to make healthy choices on what to eat. It’s important for youngsters who aren’t able to see food growing.”

The project helps health and education by giving children in urban areas like the East End the chance to grow, harvest and eat fresh food and have outdoor learning as part of the school curriculum.

Playgrounds are transformed into functioning growing spaces, teaching them about food and understanding where it comes from.

The first ‘edible playground’ idea was created in 2003 by Trees for Cities. There are now 25 in the UK, with 50 more planned in the next three years.