Growing Communities' Healthy Packed Lunch Plot Competition

A school has won a £750 prize to build a garden worthy 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 lunchbox dish which was healthy and included a variety of different produce. 

Packed lunch competition won by Rebecca, 8, from Notley Green Primary School

After a tough judging process, eight-year-old Rebecca Warder from Notley Green Primary School in Braintree was crowned winner for the primary school category, receiving £750 worth of plants & 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. Packed lunch entries

Claire Russell, Head Teacher Notley Green Primary School in Braintree commented: “We are thrilled that Rebecca has been selected as the winner! The prize will have a massive impact on the development of our outdoor learning area. 

“We very much value the benefits that learning about nature and wildlife and cultivating and growing plants can have on the education of our children at Notley Green. Now that we have an established Wildlife Garden and Forest School curriculum we now want to develop our sensory garden and allotment area. This prize will go a long way in improving our allotment area. The children are already looking forward to selecting their prize and seeing the fruits of their labour in their lunch time meal, later in the season!”

The other winners and runners up (who won prizes of £200 towards school plants & gardening equipment) were: 

• Owen Vilday, 14, from Cedar Hall School in Benfleet (winner, special school category)

• Flynn Gibaud, 5, from Wentworth Primary School in Maldon (runner up)

• Finlay Addison, 8, from Down Hall Primary School in Rayleigh (runner up)

• Suzzie Appiah, 12, from Harlow Fields School in Harlow (runner up, special school category)


Nicholas Charrington, RCCE Chairman comments: “On behalf of the RCCE I was delighted to be part of the judges panel this year.  The competition is a fun innovative way of encouraging children to think about what they eat and try new healthier options.  I was most impressed with the level of commitment and inspirational work the children created, which proved very hard when deciding the winners. The very best entrants demonstrated a clear understanding of the brief, as well as a willingness to let their imagination run wild.  All the judges left feeling hungry - inspired by the recipes and descriptions of the packed lunches.  Well done to all the entrants!”

Hannah Powell, Communications and HR Manager at Perrywood comments, “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.” 

Fellow 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. 

“The Cedar Hall plot, was well thought out and achievable to plant and grow and the recipe was also capable to cook and prepare. 

“The Notley Green plot, was well thought out and a good use of space.  It was nice to see edible flowers incorporated into the dish. Cooking and preparation instructions were clear and well laid out.”

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.


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