A dedicated green-fingered dad has received a top award from the country's top school dinners crusader.

Steve Thorpe is credited with putting fresh fruit and vegetables firmly on the menu at Haworth Primary School children thanks to the children's blossoming Gardening Club.

Mr Thorpe picked up the Organix School Food Hero Award from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver for setting up the club which has given pupils a healthy appetite for their own home-grown fresh fruit and vegetables.

The Soil Association School Food Awards applauded his inspiring leadership of 40 pupils in the popular after-school club.

Another 20 pupils are on a waiting list to plant and tend the vegetables, while the whole school is involved in harvesting the produce, shelling peas and peeling potatoes in the kitchen and then eating their vegetables' for dinner.

"A lot of children now think veg comes out of the bag," said Mr Thorpe. "But we make sure that we involve the whole school in digging up potatoes and picking veg, so they can all see where their food comes from and how it grows."

It has been a labour of love for Mr Thorpe.

For four years he volunteered in the garden with the children before Bradford Council found resources to pay him part-time.

Inspiration for the Gardening Club came in 2002, with vandalism problems in Haworth.

"I thought maybe if I taught the kids how to garden at a young age, I'd teach them how to respect and value their environment," he said.

Having won the backing of head teacher Janet Parkinson he started growing flowers with the children.

They had soon grown enough to donate to the Council for the town.

As the children started to smarten up Haworth centre, the vandalism stopped.

Then in the spring term of 2003, the club started growing vegetables in raised beds, making planting and weeding easy for the children.

They entered the produce into the local flower and vegetable show and won several trophies.

And the wider community directly benefits from the pupils' hard work. The children take vegetable boxes over to the old people's home where residents love meeting the children.

"When the tomatoes are ready we fill a big box and take them over to the doctor's surgery, and we put a note in it saying, thank you for keeping us well over the year," said Mr Thorpe.

In 2005, the children started to see their produce on the plates at lunchtime. Over the last year, peas, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, peppers, runner beans, carrots, leeks, potatoes, brussels sprouts, cabbage and beetroot from the garden have all been served up for lunch, much to the excitement of the children.

"They love tasting the produce and eating it," said Mr Thorpe.

"The number of kids that come up to me and say: That cucumber at dinner was beautiful, can I have some more?' And they're mad on tomatoes now."

There are now plans to rearrange the garden to double the number of raised beds. Following requests from the children, a small orchard with apple, cherry, plum and pear trees has already been planted and should be yielding fruit by next year.

And thanks to the £1,000 prize money from Organix for the award, the greenhouse can be extended too.

The dad-of-three thinks nothing of putting in an hour or two of preparation work at the school during summer before starting work as a Bradford Council gardener.

Mr Thorpe's 13-year-old-son, Joseph, now a pupil at Oakbank School, Keighley, was an early Gardening Club member.

"He was my right-hand man," said Mr Thorpe.

"My daughters, Lauren and Amy are at Haworth school and they're club members too. It's a bit of a family thing really, because I couldn't do it without my wife, Jackie, as well. She helps out a lot and puts up with me when I say I'm nipping down to the school on a Sunday morning."

Mr Thorpe has also been helping set up a gardening club at Oakbank.

"It's not just my award, it's the whole school's. I just feel really proud to be a part of it."

He said Jamie Oliver had been keen to pop-up to Haworth to see the club in action.

Mrs Parkinson said the positive impact on school was fantastic.

"I'm really proud for the school and for all the hard work Steve does for us.

"His work has not just improved our gardening skills, but helped curriculum work. You don't get better active learning than growing your own food, making meals with it and then eating them."

e-mail: jonathan.walton@bradford.newasquest.co.uk