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Farm to School Gets Growing in Powell River

 

Farm To School is a well-established health promotion program that has been sprouting up all over Canada for some years now. Farm to School programs aim to connect schools and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals, improving student nutrition, providing educational opportunities and supporting local small scale farmers. In the last five years, the Public Health Association of BC has supported more than 80 schools in their endeavours to establish a Farm to School (F2S) program. Research on F2S-type programs in Canada and the US show significant benefits to students, who learn about and eat locally-produced fresh foods, as well as the community by supporting farmers, strengthening community relationships and increasing capacity for food security.

James Thomson Elementary established its F2S program in 2011, and is the first school to do so in Powell River, British Columbia.

The program is managed by a volunteer committee made up of parents, which develops relationships with local producers and buys their food for use in the preparation of monthly meals for students at the school. These relationships are further strengthened by the field visits that students make to participating farms, learning more about where their food comes from and the importance of stewarding our land and water resources.

Each month, students gather at the school to enjoy the simple, healthy meal using some of the rich abundance of local produce that is grown in the Powell River region.  Fruit, vegetables, fish, eggs, honey and even locally milled grains are all included, depending on the season, and information is provided to students during the meal about how the nutritional value of the food and how it got from “farm to plate”.  Many of the students will have visited the very farms supplying the food they are eating, and may have even assisted in the harvest.

In 2012, the F2S had the idea to create a map of these farm visits, using artwork by the students to show the various foods produced in the region.  Artist and VCH Healthy Community Coordinator Vanessa Sparrow worked with F2S Parent Coordinator Francine Ulmer to develop the map, which was launched as part of the school’s May Day celebrations this year.  The map is a colourful and engaging tool that can be used as an classroom tool for teachers to help demonstrate F2S concepts and broader education around food security and sustainability.  Removable stickers of fruits, vegetables, eggs, fish, etc. can be placed on the map to show where the ingredients for each F2S meal came from.  Hopefully, students will be encouraged through their participation in the mapping process to become more thoughtful stewards of the food-producing land in the region, and perhaps some students will even be inspired to become food growers themselves!

For more information on F2S programs in BC, check out the Farm To School website:

www.phabc.org/farmtoschool

 

About the author

Joanne Bays is the National Manager of Farm to Cafeteria Canada. She is a population health nutritionist and a food policy consultant with a special interest in food localism and its impact on personal, community, school, and environmental health.

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