Ipswich School: A Fantastic Foodshare Case Study

Alex Johnson, a sixth-former at Ipswich School, looks at how the project has developed there.

Even a Muntjac deer destroying the brand new greenhouse didn’t stop Ipswich School pupils’ enthusiasm and determination for their Foodshare project, which has run at the independent school in Suffolk for two years.

“We wanted to give growers the opportunity to redistribute excess produce during the growing seasons in a way that enabled charities to benefit and reduce food bills,” explained Senior Deputy Head, Darren Ayling, when asked why he set up the Foodshare group.

Seven pupils aged 14 to 16 have spent two hours every Thursday afternoon strategically planning and managing resources. They have also encouraged growing not only in the school community, but also within the three Ipswich-based charities which the school project is helping – all with the aim of reducing food bills and reducing food waste.

The fruits (or vegetables!) of the group’s labour have supported L’Arche Ipswich, a small charity which helps those with disabilities to live and work alongside those lucky enough to have full health, The Ipswich Umbrella Trust, which supports the homeless and vulnerable, and St Elizabeth Hospice, which strives to improve the lives of people living with a progressive illness.

In 2010, Mr Ayling launched the Foodshare group as part of the school’s Thursday Activities programme in which pupils are encouraged to dedicate time to community projects. In the early stages, the group followed the Foodshare model, raising the profile by using posters and school assemblies to get the whole school involved.

The ‘donation stations’ have been essential to the group’s success, enabling pupils, parents and staff alike to donate their excess produce at easily accessible locations around the school.

The first major milestone came when the group identified an East Anglian farmer, Richard Winch, who allowed them use of a field of vegetables, which contained 70kg of savoy cabbages and leeks. Of course, these donations have many benefits, but they don’t come without problems, most significantly the issues of transport and facilities. Being a small group in a school, there is no transport easily available except school minibuses, which didn’t mix well with last winter’s snow, and, unsurprisingly, there are no processing facilities.

But, the team didn’t let this dishearten them. Eighteen months in, 170kg has been donated to us and was then distributed, equalling an astonishing £200-worth of produce. And it doesn’t stop there. In November 2011, in a bid to continue supporting their Foodshare charities through the natural drop in available produce during the winter (during the “vegetable gap”), the team rolled out a Christmas card competition in which pupils summited their winter scenes from previous years to feature on Christmas cards. Over £400 was raised from the sale of these cards for the Foodshare charities. Plus the team organised a “Great Foodshare Cake Sale!” in school, raising £210 through the sale of homemade cakes to pupils and staff over just forty minutes, with profits going to the Ipswich Umbrella Trust, and a plant sale, selling a variety of rare vegetables – including striped green tomatoes called Tigerella – cultivated by the Foodshare group from donated seeds –raised a further £60 for the charities.

The school already had a strong relationship with local charities through its existing projects and work within the wider community, but this has certainly strengthened the relationship for both parties. So the benefits to the local charities are clear, but what about the benefits to the pupils themselves? Skills identified include teamwork and business experience, as well as baking and packing cards! And the pupils’ view is that it’s “fun”, “enjoyable”, and “most of all rewarding to be part of a scheme which does so much for those less fortunate in the wider community”.

Five top tips from the Ipswich School Foodshare Team

1. If you don’t ask you don’t get – many of the donations we have received have been actively sought and a direct result of the ideas brought about by members of the team.

2. Don’t be disheartened if things don’t go as well as you’d hoped.

3. There is no such thing as a bad idea – many of our ideas seemed ridiculous at first but, with some careful thought, they became immensely successful. Our Christmas card competition seemed a far-fetched idea
for a Foodshare group, but turned into one of our most successful ventures!

4. Work as a team – many ideas only work effectively when everyone works together.

5. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty – the biggest rewards have come from the tasks which seemed the most challenging- such as digging out vegetables from a snow-covered field

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 20th, 2012 at 5:59 pm and is filed under Allotments, Charity, Donate, News, Schools. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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