Students at St. George Catholic School in Southside lined up to help pot tomato seedlings in recycled Rotolo’s Pizzeria cups on May 7 as part of the Homegrown Love for Mom program, now in its sixth year.

Mitch Rotolo’s company, Rotolo’s Pizzeria, buys back its cups in exchange for free pizza, secures donated tomato plants, and puts them together to send one home with each student in schools where the program operates, Rotolo said.

The plants are placed in the cups and distributed one per student as a gift to take home to mom the week before Mother’s Day, Rotolo said.

“Some of the schools where we do this program, this may be the only Mother’s Day present that child can give his mom,” he said.

Rotolo said he hopes to plant three additional messages with the project — the importance of recycling, healthy eating and gardening.

Fourth-grade teachers Julie Jackson and Wendi Noel said the program is a big hit with students, who love getting their hands dirty.

“We’ve been learning about plant parts and plant life cycles, so this fits right in to our lesson plan,” Jackson said. “The students get really excited about anything that’s hands-on.”

Since inception, the program has led to recycling more than 50,000 cups. Recycled cups are collected and donated to third- and fourth-grade schoolchildren along with soil and tomato plants. The program provides educators and schoolchildren an educational lesson on how to plant and grow a tomato plant in a recycled cup. The lesson also provides children with knowledge surrounding recycling and the importance it plays in modern society.

This year Rotolo’s Pizzeria donated approximately 1,300 recycled cups, 17,000 pounds of soil and 1,300 tomato plants to schoolchildren throughout greater Baton Rouge. The Homegrown Love for Mom program provided 12 schools the educational opportunity. One school participating in this year’s Rotolo’s Homegrown Love for Mom program will receive a $500 grant to start a school garden.

Other participating schools are Baton Rouge Charter Academy, St. Jean Vianney and St. Thomas More.