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Waterford, IrelandWaterford, Ireland
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Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

GROW HQ is a food empathy project being created by GIY (Grow it Yourself), an emerging global network of 50,000 food growers. It is a place where people can come to learn about home-grown food, and to grow, cook, and eat it. GROW HQ is a training centre, farm shop, cafe and urban food garden.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The way the food chain currently operates has profound implications for our health, community, environment and local food economies. It is based on a system where nutrients in land, food and people are depleted in a never-ending drive for increased yields and profits. Scarce resources and valuable nutrients are wasted even further, transporting food around the globe and there is an ever-widening gulf between food production and consumption. This has resulted in a pandemic of food-related wellness issues. A key facet of this problem is that as consumers we lack food empathy - that is, an understanding of where our food comes from, how it is produced, and the time/effort required.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

GIY's vision is for a healthy, happy and more sustainable world, where land, food and people are fully nourished. Change begins with the decision to sow a seed – if we can encourage enough people to grow some of their own food, we can create an army of people who have 'food empathy'. By growing some of our own food (even if it's only some salads on a windowsill) we get a better understanding of food - where it comes from, how it's produced. Food empathy is transformative. When GIYers engage with the food chain, they buy more seasonal food, more local food, more organic food. Their physical and mental health improves. They live more sustainably. In order to dramatically scale our impact and increase the number of 'GIYers' we intend to create an internationally-replicable food empathy centre called GROW HQ, dedicated to nudging people along an impact spectrum from apathy to food empathy. It will be a high-profile urban food garden, cafe, shop, cookery school and grow school.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

In addition to catalysing and supporting the GIY group network, GIY runs programmes, events and projects to inspire and support people to grow their own food. Groups - supporting the GIY group network in communities and online - we provide open source tools and an online platform to facilitate the establishment of GIY groups, where people come together to help each other to GIY. Online - generating online content to support GIYers in their growing Programmes - awareness and support programmes such as the Community Growing Fund, Sow & Grow schools campaign, Operation GIY Nation and Plotshare. Events - organising outreach events to promote food growing and motivate food growers, such as the GIY Gathering. Resources - GIY ezines, helpsheets, books, GROW magazine, syndicated content for newspapers. GROW HQ - food education and empathy centre Quotes: • Increased access to healthy, seasonal, organic food. “Our whole family is eating healthier now – because the kids are involved in growing the vegetables, they don’t seem to mind eating them as much.” • GIYing has a positive effect on physical and mental health, well-being, and self-esteem. “I love being out in the garden. It just makes me feel better.” • The “virtuous circle” of home-grown and local food reduces reliance on imports and stenghtens local food economies. “Because I grow my own, I understand what’s in season. When I go to the supermarket, I buy more seasonal and local food”. • Reduced reliance on food imports reduces our carbon footprint - “I am buying fewer vegetables and when I do buy them, I buy local”

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

The GIY group network is made up of interconnected food-growing groups and people united by an ethical core. Over 50,000 people and 800 individual community food groups and projects are involved in the GIY movement currently in Ireland, UK and Australia. GIY aims to co-create an international food movement of 1 million people and 15,000 affiliated community food groups in 20 countries in the next 5 years. GROW HQ is a partnership with the City Council to create an international model for food empathy and sustainable urban food growing in Waterford. It will significantly increase the number of people growing their own food. In its first 5 years we will engage 230,000 people, reskill 17,000 people, create 25 jobs and change the conversation on food and nutrition. We will document and publish the process and methodology involved in the GROW HQ project in order to inspire similar projects in cities around the world.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

GROW HQ will have income from growing / cooking training and workshops for adults and children, running events, and from retail activities (farm shop, 60-seat cafe, urban organic box scheme, farmer's market). Food will be grown on site so as to reduce costs and create market advantage. GROW HQ is budgeted to break even within 3 years, and make a small profit by year 5. This is a unique partnership of public, private and philantrophic partners.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are many organisations who are running food growing training centres around the world. However, fewer are operating such projects in urban areas, and even fewer still in such a unique site. The city of Waterford is giving GIY a 3 acre site in a high profile location in the city to develop GROW HQ. The site is surrounded by 'standard' food retailers such as Tescos, and 'standard' healthcare providers (e.g hospital, hospice etc). We therefore have a unique opportunity to change the conversation about food, nutrition and health, and to do so on a mass scale. We will partner with and learn from Ashoka fellow Geoff Cape from Evergreen who established the Brickworks project in Toronto - while Brickworks has a broader sustainability agenda, GROW HQ is focussed on food empathy.

Founding Story

GIY founder Michael Kelly had his Road to Damascus moment in a supermarket in Ireland, when he realised some garlic he was about to buy was imported from China. On looking in to the problem he discovered that in fact, Ireland was importing €5 billion of food each year, while exporting €7 billion, and that there were some types of food where the country was importing the exact same quantity as it was exporting. Being a contrary git, he decided to grow his own garlic and started his GIY journey. He soon realised however, that he wasn't very good at it. He went in search of a local food growers group so that he could learn from some real experts and get to know other like-minded folk in the area. But there was no such group, and being a sucker for a hare-brained project, Michael decided to set one up. 100 people showed up at the first meeting of GIY Waterford and the group continues to meets monthly in the city. There are now over 800 groups and projects involved in the GIY network.
About You
About You
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About Your Organization
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Organization Country

, WF, Waterford

Country where this project is creating social impact

, WF, Waterford

Has the organization received awards or honors? Please tell us about them

Ashoka Fellow - Michael Kelly
Arthur Guinness Fund Awardee - GIY
Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Award - GIY

Nutrients For All
Where do you ensure the availability of nutrients?

Healthy environments., Full nourishment foods, Human wellness and vitality.

If you had greater capacity, which additional sectors would you like your solution to target - either through expansion, partnership, or thought exchange?

Healthy environments, Nutrient-rich farming, Full nourishment foods, Human wellness and vitality.

How specifically would this added capacity help you improve the quality, efficiency, or sustainability of your existing product or service?

We are constantly seeking ways in which we can engage more people and inspire them to grow some of their own food. Over the years, we have realised that focus on gardening/horticulture simply doesn't work and in fact scares away many of the people we are seeking to inspire. Moving the focus to food (growing it, eating it and cooking it), health and nutrition broadens the appeal of the project, particularly when done in a high-profile urban setting. GROW HQ will help us to showcase our work, galvanise staff and volunteers, and provide a tangible focus for funding opportunities.