GIY aims to deliver GROW At School programme in primary schools across Connacht

Founder of GIY Michael Kelly with senior infants Nina Lalor, Alhyzia Montenegro, Millie O’Higgins and Evie Burchell of St John of God National School in Waterford as they received their GIY GROW At School pack. 
Photo: Mary Browne.

Founder of GIY Michael Kelly with senior infants Nina Lalor, Alhyzia Montenegro, Millie O’Higgins and Evie Burchell of St John of God National School in Waterford as they received their GIY GROW At School pack. Photo: Mary Browne.

The not-for-profit social enterprise Grow It Yourself (GIY ) is aiming to raise €1 million in order to deliver the food education and mental health programme GROW At School in primary schools across the country for the academic year 2023/24.

GROW At School was first rolled out by GIY as a four year pilot project across 32 schools in Ireland; this was completed in June 2021. The programme was a huge success, and GIY subsequently made a submission to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, proposing GROW at School be implemented and supported as a national food growing programme under the Programme for Government. GIY founder Michael Kelly made a presentation and submission to the committee last autumn.

As of yet, the programme has not been funded by the Government – however, GIY has raised some €300,000 so far this year through philanthropic support from individuals and foundations, and from corporate donors and individual philanthropic support and is currently delivering GROW At School to 134 primary schools across Ireland this year.

GIY is aiming to include another 500 schools in the programme in September 2023, with a further 1,000 schools in 2024. The organisation hopes to eventually embed food growing in more than 50 per cent of all primary schools in Ireland in the future. It needs to raise €1 million for the 2023 initiative, and €2 million for 2024.

“At present it’s incredible that over 600 primary schools have registered their interest in joining the programme," said Nell Ward, director of development at GIY. "This reflects the huge interest among teachers in actively participating in environmental action, and the impact of the programme even beyond food growing. GROW At School is at the nexus of climate action, mental health and education (food system ). We have been working with schools since our foundation in 2008 and we have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t.

"This programme delivers on wellbeing, offering mental and physical health and well-being benefits. It also delivers on environmental goals – a healthy food system with sustainable food choices addressing biodiversity and zero waste in order to alleviate climate anxiety, and it is educational, offering students the opportunity to learn a practical life skill and understand where food comes from.

"We also have some incredible teacher feedback – about how the programme teaches children about their food and where it’s come from will help them make better choices as they grow up. some children being 'baffled' by the fact that Brussels sprouts grow on a stalk and that peas were growing in pods in front of them.”

"Children in the autism unit have probably got the most benefit out of it. It has been very therapeutic for them to go out and work the soil and see the plants growing."

The pressure is on to fund these schools for the academic year 2023/2024. It costs €2,000 per school to provide the kit of four raised beds, soil to fill them, seeds and other materials, along with teacher training and ongoing support to help the gardens to flourish. There is no cost to the schools to participate.

For further details email growatschool@giy.ie.

 

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