One of the panel discussions at the GIY Gathering in Waterford covered the topic of school vegetable gardens. The session was aimed at teachers and interested parents that want to get their school growing vegetables, and on the panel were schools from around the country that are already doing just that.
At GIY we would like to see a veggie patch in every school in the country – at a time when over 300,000 Irish children are categorized as obese, it’s more important than ever that our kids learn about growing food. Any parent that GIYs with their kids will know that it can transform their little one’s relationship with food – fussy eaters can be convinced to eat vegetables if they’ve been involved in the growing or harvesting of them.
This year the young Kelly GIYers ate our entire pea crop and a sizeable amount of our tomatoes too before they even made it to the kitchen. On foraging trips (or raids?) through the veggie patch with their Daddy, they’ve sampled chard and lettuce and all manner of things that they might turn their little noses up at, at the kitchen table. Why? Because kids are curious by nature and they just like the idea of wandering around trying out a bit of this and that. Of course it helps if occasionally they get to taste something really sweet – like a strawberry or a ripe, succulent tomato.
What’s really inspiring about the schools on our panel discussion is that by and large all it takes is one committed teacher and some interested parents to get involved and get the school growing. Local GIY groups can help by supporting the schools with some advice and manpower if needs be. The rewards are huge for the kids involved. By showing them how to sow seeds and rummage in the soil for fresh spuds, we are teaching them a genuinely useful skill and something that will bring them joy for the rest of their lives.
At the GIY Gathering Food Debate on Sunday morning, Darina Allen asked the audience to sign a petition to put GIYing on the school curriculum. We will look in to hosting this petition on the GIY website and are looking in to ways we can lobby the Dep Ed on the issue. Though there lots of committed organisations, parents and teachers doing tremendous work already in schools around Ireland, a top down approach like this would be the silver bullet to the problem. We were also asked at the Gathering to set up a GIY Kidzone on the website – happy to do this and would welcome your feedback on how to do it. Interestingly some of the feedback we got from teachers at the event is that they often don’t have the time or the resources to put a school garden in place – obviously GIY can help here by putting formal supports in place. But GIYers can help too – ask your local school if they need help. All it could take is a little bit of manpower and some inspiration to put in a few raised beds, fill them with soil and get our kids growing again. This is the perfect time of the year for an approach.
Incidentally we are also starting a new partnership project with Bord Bia and SEED to make the GIY site an information hub for teachers that want to start a living garden in their school. This should be up and running in October.
Source: GIY Ireland – A Veggie Patch in Every School in the Country