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Growing with our Communities – HEINEKEN Ireland and GIY’s Employee Wellbeing Partnership

Date:12th September 2018

Growing with our Communities – HEINEKEN Ireland and GIY’s Employee Wellbeing partnership that is growing in more ways than one.

The average Irish person spends about a quarter of their week and one third of their life at work, so the workplace is an immensely important setting in which to promote and improve health and wellbeing.


In fact, implementing a workplace health and wellbeing programme will help tackle common issues such as reduced productivity, high staff turnover, poor physical and mental health and high stress levels.


In particular, adding food growing and staff volunteering to the workplace can help engage staff in a really fun and meaningful wellness activity. Research shows that time spent in the veg patch improves mental and physical health, mental agility, and immune system function.


That’s the basis of our GROW At Work programme through which GIY works with some of Ireland’s best places to work, empowering employees to improve their physical and mental health. The programme is grounded in the healthy settings approach which aims to make the places we work more conducive to health and wellbeing.


GIY’s partnership with HEINEKEN Ireland, called “Growing With our Communities”, is the gold standard for a GROW At Work programme. It aims to create healthy and sustainable working, learning and living environments for staff and visitors, to promote health and sustainability across both partners and to connect with and contribute to the health, wellbeing and sustainability of the wider community.


In July 2017, HEINEKEN Ireland employees got to work on the first of three Star Gardens. The first to benefit was The Blackpool Plaza in Cork City. Each community group in the initiative was given their own GROW At Work programme and received garden design, planting and growing expertise, a financial contribution towards materials and people power through HEINEKEN Ireland employee volunteering.


Thanks to HEINEKEN Ireland, two other spaces were given the GIY Grow It Forward treatment on the same day - Leitrim Street, outside the HEINEKEN Ireland brewery and Cork Simon Community High Support Housing, Tir Na Nog, in Blackrock. While the transformation in the physical spaces was immense, the highlight of the day was the reaction from the residents in the three gardens we worked on.


Two other community spaces since transformed into Star Gardens are St. Michael’s

Community Centre garden in Inchicore, Dublin and New Street Garden in the heart of Waterford City.


New Street Gardens in Waterford, for example, was an abandoned, rubble-filled ugly lot in the middle of the city. Originally built with a stage for music and entertainment, a stone oven, winding paths and clever planting, the garden held such promise and was a huge community asset in its early years. Unfortunately, anti-social behaviour kept most people away and those that continued to use the garden used it for some very anti-social activities.


Despite the enormity of the challenge, HEINEKEN Ireland sent out a team of their most fearless employees (the sales reps, of course) and those guys just tore into the major task of saving that garden. It took two skip loads of rubbish, forty pairs of gloves, 20 litres of paint, 30 shovels, rakes and forks and more blood sweat and tears than you can imagine but by the end of the day New Street Gardens had been brought back to its former glory.


GIY’s Head of Community Development, Karen O’Donohoe says that employee engagement programmes such as GROW At Work resonate with companies that want to engage with their employees on issues of wellbeing and sustainability. “HEINEKEN Ireland’s “Growing with Our Communities” is a fantastic example of the positive impact that food growing has on people whether it’s through ‘al desko’ growing or urban greening and with bigger and better plans for 2018 this is a partnership that will keep on growing.”