Pictured launching The Big Grow 2021 are sisters Millie Foley, age 6, and Pippa Foley, age 8. Photo: Patrick Browne
Schools may be closed, but innocent and GIY are calling on teachers to sign up for free food growing classroom kits to welcome them back when the doors are open again.
Today kicks off the tenth year of The Big Grow, a campaign started by innocent and GIY to get kids growing their own veg at school, helping thousands of schools to get free growing resources.
Schools all over the country are again invited to apply to The Big Grow for a food growing kit which comes with five packs of different seeds and enough compost, growing cups, instructions, and fun lesson plans for the entire class. Although schools are closed at the moment, they’ll be sent once everyone’s back in class just in time to start the growing season. The growing cups are easy for kids to take home and do the activities from the comfort of their kitchen too.
The Big Grow has so far helped 1.5 million kids to start growing their own veg, and this year over 200,000 more children in Ireland and the UK will be getting stuck in to learn something new.
Speaking of the 10 year anniversary and the launch of the 2021 initiative, founder of GIY Michael Kelly said: “We are so proud to have reached a 10-year milestone of helping children to grow food at school with innocent through The Big Grow. When we began this initiative a decade ago it was a novel concept and some might have thought it wouldn't catch on. But the feedback we get from the schools, teachers and most importantly the children who take part every year re-affirms that this initiative works, be that in urban, rural or city centre schools.”
Brand manager for innocent drinks Ireland, Rochana Shrestha added: "We’re big fans of fruit and veg here at innocent and we’re really proud of The Big Grow seeing as it helps kids to grow their own. Over the last ten years, we’ve made it our mission to reach over half the primary school kids in Ireland with this healthy-eating project, so it’s great that more schools are taking part again this year. Getting kids excited about veg is what it’s all about."
Each school taking part in The Big Grow will be encouraged to share their growing experiences online in order to be in with a chance of being crowned The Big Grow Champs 2021 and be awarded a school garden revamp.
The winners of the 2020 Big Grow were St. Patrick’s Boys and Girls Primary School in Lombard Street in Galway City. The school own a small concrete yard and used the space to create an incredible ‘Vertical Garden’ using every inch of space and even placing pallets on walls to grow peas, lettuce, spinach, potatoes and lots more.
Jarlath Conboy, Principal of St. Pat’s spoke about the impact of the programme on his school: “The Big Grow has sparked an interest in food growing among our pupils that helped make our school garden the success that it is. Last year, that enthusiasm was brought home as many of our children started growing food at home for the first time as well.
"Although we are a city-centre school and many of our pupils do not have a garden at home we turned concrete patches, balconies and windowsills into colourful growing spaces. The class essentially brought the countryside into the city in the work that they did. Most importantly, this competition has sown the seeds of a positive attitude towards healthy eating at a young age.
As schools across Ireland continue to adapt to Covid restrictions, The Big Grow offers the excitement of watching seeds turn into healthy food and a welcome chance to take their learning outdoors.”
Encouraging all schools to get involved in The Big Grow this year, the students of St. Pat’s offered their 5 top tips for school growing success:
- Start a ‘Gardening Club’ and make gardening and growing food accessible to everyone in the school. Many hands make light work!
- Look at everything that you have in a new way - all containers can become pots for growing. Find, forage and re-use.
- Prepare your soil. Gather all of the leaves from the playground and create a compost heap for mulch to ‘feed’ your garden soil nutrients. And if your school is by the sea collect some seaweed on your next nature walk for fertilizer!
- Create a rain catcher. We love to collect as much rainwater as we can to water our garden and keep our garden and the environment green.
- Make a sensory map of your garden so that visitors can follow it, learn about all the plants that we grow and how they appeal to our five senses. This also makes gardening and visiting a garden lots more fun for those with additional needs.
Teachers can sign up for a free food growing kit at www.innocentbiggrow.com. Registration is still open while stocks last, and kits will be sent once schools doors are open again based on government guidelines.