Article by Food First NL, provincial F2CC lead in Newfoundland and Labrador for Farm to School
St. Bonaventure’s College in St. John’s, NL was a recipient of the Farm to School Month prize in 2016 for $1500. With those funds, along with matching funds from school donors, students and volunteers recently built the school a gorgeous new greenhouse.
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Before building the greenhouse, they put thought into how to make it an integral part of their Farm to School program, so that it has big impact from day one. Here are five things St. Bonaventure’s College is doing to make the greenhouse a success:
1. Link F2S into the Community– The operation of the new school greenhouse is a partnership with The Gathering Place. “The Gathering Place is a service centre in St. John’s committed to building community, promoting equality and providing nourishment…The programs and services of the Gathering Place are offered primarily to people who are homeless or live in less than desirable housing conditions, people who are often unemployed and to people who do not have adequate social supports at this time in their lives.”
The partnership with The Gathering Place is beneficial on both sides. The Gathering Place will be starting seeds in the greenhouse to plant in their own garden, which they harvest to support meal programs for hundreds of visitors. Participants at The Gathering Place will also be using the greenhouses for employment and training programs.
St. Bonaventure’s College has the benefit of a year-round partner to help with maintenance and security of the greenhouse when students and staff are away. Students also get to expand their community involvement and social justice education by connecting with The Gathering Place. That’s a natural extension of the volunteer work they were already doing at The Gathering Place with its breakfast program. St. Bonaventure’s College is a Christian school, so their greenhouse activities will further their mission to “turn their faith into action for the betterment of society”.
2. Garden for Food Literacy– The new greenhouse is an important tool for advancing food literacy education at the school. Students from kindergarten to grade 12 will be utilizing the greenhouse for activities in science, ecology and other topics. The school already has raised vegetable beds outdoors so the greenhouse will extend the months of the school year that garden-based learning can happen. It will also complement the existing student-led composting program in the school.
3. Create a Holistic F2S Program– The greenhouse is one part of a multi-faceted Farm to School program at St. Bonaventure’s College. They also have a farm to school salad bar (the first in NL!), a school food policy, and strong partnerships with local farmers. Food harvested from the greenhouse will go into the farm to school salad bar, and local farmers are available to provide guidance as needed.
4. Engage Students in Every Step– Students at St. Bonaventure’s College are proud of their Farm to School program; they are involved in every part of it. The salad bar came about because students demanded better, healthier food and they were willing to put in volunteer time to make that a reality. Similarly, students were involved in building the greenhouse this summer along with parent volunteers, learning hands-on skills. They will also help decide what to plant and will be preparing the harvest for the salad bar.
5. Connect with the National F2S Movement– St. Bonaventure’s College F2S staff leads frequently connect with what is happening on the broader national scene. They attended Changing the Menu conference, have given presentations to groups in other provinces, and share ideas and resources with people across Canada through the Farm to Cafeteria Canada network. Being connected has helped them navigate and avoid some pitfalls, and has allowed them to pass on their knowledge. Especially in NL where F2S is so young, support from a national community has huge benefits.