Vital People: Students help grow food underground to feed people in need

Vital People: Students help grow food underground to feed people in need

Grade five students Jada and Blue show us how they’re growing plants without dirt.

“I’ve learned that you don’t always need to have dirt to grow a plant, so we use water and light and it’s super cool,” Glenlyon Norfolk student Jada Baterina says.

“I’ve learned quite a bit, like how fast plants grow, how to germinate them, how to grow them all around,” adds classmate Blue Heal

This pilot project — part of the Nature School programming at Glenlyon Norfolk School — is using a section of the parking garage to grow food underground in winter for food banks and community kitchens.

“This is a very meaningful project and I think it models so many good things,” Glenlyon Norfolk grade five teacher Sarah Wallace explains. “It models excellent collaboration, it models service, all things they are going to go on and use in their later lives.”

It’s the brainchild of entrepreneur Allan Murr, who’s passionate about growing food and started the Harvest & Share Food Relief Society at the beginning of the COVID pandemic to help people in need.

“One of the things that we’ve been noticing at the food banks and community kitchens that we donate to is that they don’t have fresh leafy greens during the winter time so we started this great collaboration with GNS,” Allan says.

The indoor, hydroponic system means fresh food can be grown year-round.

“What we’ve done differently here is we’ve created a passive system, so we don’t have the pumps and air filters and all the different things that need to be maintained,” Allan explains.

“It’s awesome because you can grow plants through any season you want, and it’s really fast and easy!” Jada says.

It’s much faster than growing food outdoors, which means more food can be produced.

“It feels so satisfying to get the plants out, to get the plants out, to cut the roots,” Blue says. “It’s really fun. I love it!”

As a passion for growing takes root, so too are the seeds of philanthropy.

“It’s really nice because we are like connecting to the community, and we help people who are in need, which always feels nice,” Jada says.

“I feel amazing knowing that I am going to be helping people all over,” Blue adds.

And it’s why Allan volunteers his time to make a difference.

“When you’re delivering the food and see the looks on the faces, that’s when it triggers, that’s when you know you’ve done something right and you feel good about it,” Allan says.

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