An Ottawa school project to grow potatoes in barrels to donate to the Ottawa Food Bank has caught on with community members.

Derek Rhodenizer, the vice-principal at Heritage Academy, a school designed for students with learning disabilities, started the project as a means of getting fresh food to people in need.

Instructors and students have refurbished old olive oil barrels in a unique manner to help the potatoes grow vertically inside the barrel.

"It's pretty amazing," said 11-year-old student Bella Brounghan. "You put the seeds in. You put the soil on top. When you see it coming up, you keep putting soil on top so it thinks they're still room to grow."

Each barrel can potentially grow about 40 pounds of potatoes, said Rhodenizer.

"We really wanted to have a chance to donate to the food bank — which we already do with cans — but we wanted to have a chance to do something with fresh food," said Rhodenizer. "We got this idea that we could spread it around and get people in the city to get involved."

Volunteers from across Eastern Ontario

The school is selling the barrels to some 60 people from as far as Winchester and Pembroke who have promised to donate every potato they grow to the Ottawa Food Bank.

"I think it's a great idea," said volunteer Charlie Trinque. "We haven't heard of it before so we applied to pick up a couple of barrels."

The Ottawa Food Bank says in the past few years it's been more difficult to get access to fresh foods.

The school hopes that come the September harvest, more than two tonnes of potatoes will be donated.