Ottawa’s Growing Up Organic asks public’s help to continue popular school garden program


Grade 1 students at Featherston Drive Public School harvest radishes for the first time. (Photo: Canadian Organic Growers Ottawa

Grade 1 students at Featherston Drive Public School harvest radishes for the first time.
(Photo: Canadian Organic Growers Ottawa)

A popular healthy food program for children and youth called Growing Up Organic (GUO) faces an uncertain future in Ottawa unless it can raise $25,000 by August 31. Its core funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation is set to run out soon, jeopardizing the garden- and farm-based education it delivers to area schools through the Ottawa chapter of Canadian Organic Growers (COG).

“We’re making an urgent appeal to the public,” says coordinator and regional manager Alissa Campbell. “The program will go on hiatus if we can’t reach our fundraising target by the end of the summer. And if that happens, a lot of schools will be disappointed because they count on our food programming.”

Working with what Alissa describes as a shoestring budget, GUO reaches 50 classes across Ottawa, representing over 1,100 students, and creates brand-new garden spaces at 6 to 8 schools each year.

Hands-on food education for kids

Since it began in 2007, GUO Ottawa has:

  • partnered with schools to set up 42 organic school gardens
  • provided hundreds of workshops — linked to curriculum — on organic food gardening; 180 workshops were delivered in 2014 alone;
  • organized activities such as farm field trips, farmer visits to the classroom and cooking workshops
  • helped connect farmers in the region with schools and other urban institutional markets for organic food

Planning for financial sustainability

“We know we can’t rely on grants to deliver our programming,” Alissa points out. “In fact, non-profit organizations are steering away from them these days.”  Instead, she says GUO Ottawa is developing a new strategy to promote its immediate survival and long-term sustainability. Under the strategy, funds would come from multiple sources, such as:

  • a re-focused and reformatted September harvest event,  COG’s Feast of Fields
  • a fee structure for schools that use GUO programming (services have been free since 2007), similar to the structure other cities use
  • corporate sponsorships
  • individual donations

How to donate

For more information about GUO Ottawa’s farm- and garden-based education, or to make a donation, visit the COG website. All donations over $20 will receive a receipt for tax purposes.

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