Food for thought


CREATING A CONNECTION The Food Forest Education Programme will allow students to learn to plant trees, grow food and begin to make simple but vital changes in what and how they eat. Pic: istock

Green Living
McKinley Neal

The Fridays for Future movement is a youth-led and organised movement that has its root in the original School Strikes for Climate initiated by Greta Thunberg in Sweden in August 2018. On September 24, students organised a global strike to try to remind the world, especially government leaders, yet again, what is at stake for the future if meaningful action is not taken to cut emissions, address climate justice issues and support MAPA (Most Affected People and Areas) to protect biodiversity and defend the environment. In Mayo, youth activists met outside the Mayo County Council offices in Castlebar.
It is impressive how many young people are aware of the effect of climate change on their own communities and who stand in solidarity with people everywhere, especially those whose livelihoods are severely threatened by increased extreme weather events, pollution, loss of biodiversity, etc.
So what does this have to do with us? Some of us may know teenagers who are deeply concerned about the environment and their future, especially after having endured the Covid pandemic and its disruption to their lives. Or, some of us may know younger children who are already asking questions about animals going extinct, or plastic pollution, or any number of other queries like those I often answer at home. Or we may all simply be wondering as individuals how we can make a difference to the future, for ourselves and young people.
A selection of primary and secondary schools in Westport and Castlebar will be the first to roll out a new programme designed to encourage more young people to grow and consume food in an environmentally sustainable, climate smart way. Developed and run by The Edible Landscape Project (ELP) based in Westport, a social enterprise, the Food Forest Education Programme will allow students to learn to plant trees, grow food and begin to make simple but vital changes in what and how they eat. This will help them to improve their health, to strengthen their communities and to protect the planet.
ELP’s Food Forest Education Programme has been specifically created by teachers for teachers, and students learn about the important link between climate change and food through a series of five topics: Soil, Biodiversity, Water, Food Miles and the Food Forest Ecosystem. All learning will centre around a 2m x 2m Food Forest on site at each school, so students can experience the lessons in a tangible way, by touching the soil, watering plants and watching the ecosystem develop.
As a parent, I am excited to know that in addition to the discussions we have at home, my children will have the chance to learn with their peers about topics that are likely to be even more important in future, when skills in nourishing soil and growing our own food may be even relevant than they are now.
For anyone interested in learning more about the programme or volunteering with the Edible Landscape Project, please contact Fridays for Future is online, too.
McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic foods, reusable goods, household products, eco-friendly personal care items and gifts.