Groundwork’s Youth Team run a youth club every week in Merseybank in Manchester.
In August 2021, the team invited young people who attend the youth club to form a Green Influencers group where members would agree on, and work together on a specific environmental project.
A group of 17 young people aged between 10 and 17, from diverse backgrounds, came forward to take part. The group met regularly to discuss areas of the estate which they would like to see improved. When reviewing projects the young people discussed how they would organise the tasks, what resources were need and what project management skills they needed to develop.
Initially the Green Influencers settled on the decision to build, paint and plant a large vertical garden to brighten up the Community Centre, however due to unforeseen circumstances this wasn’t meant to be. Instead they turned to a somewhat forgotten space in, the old Merseybank Community Garden.
Revamping the community garden
The lease of Merseybank Community Garden had expired even before COVID 19 pandemic, leading to the site becoming over grown and unrecognisable as a food growing space.
A handful of the the Green Influencers, supported by a parent, took up the challenge of securing the lease again for community use and in late 2022 the lease for the Merseybank Community Garden was secured back in community hands!
The young people jumped at the opportunity to reinstate the garden. Over a number of planned action days they cleared all the weeds and overgrowth, repaired the raised beds and made sure the space was ready to be used by the local community.
The space was now ready to be used by The Den, a community run café serving up drinks and simple food an an affordable price to the local community.
Alison, one of the volunteers at The Den added,
We’re so grateful for the young people clearing the planters, it means that we could start growing our own food to use in the café. Huge thanks to everyone involved!
Low carbon cooking
At the same time as clearing the growing space the young people started a project to engage the local community about low carbon cooking.
In early spring of 2023 the Green Influencers planned a range of dishes they wanted to trial at the community kitchen at BMCA. Over the next 8 weeks the young people tasted a range of new dishes, featuring ingredients which were new to many of them. Groundwork’s Youth Worker John shared insights about local food for their health and for the health of the planet. The young people learnt new cooking skills and enhanced their knowledge about sustainable food production.
After their cooking trials the Green Influencers were ready to cook for the community. Working together, they prepared a spicy jackfruit curry with rice for over 80 people from their local community, made with locally sourced, low carbon ingredients.
In July 2023, Thomas and some of the other Green Influencers, started FungALL with the Merseybank Community Garden. The idea was to produce free mushrooms from waste for The Den community café.
Groundwork supported this idea by hosting an online workshop and providing mushroom growing starter kits for the young people. Once everyone’s knowledge was up to speed, construction started on the mushroom farm.
Thomas, one of the Green Influencers added;
Our community is in the top 10% of the UK’s most deprived areas for income and crime. Instead of focusing on the negatives, I try to put my energy into training myself and local residents on how to create these resilient, sustainable systems to grow nutritious food.