14 SCHOOLS, GARDENS, AND SALAD BARS AND A 4,000 KM TRIP
Here in British Columbia, the month of May consisted of our two regional animators travelling the province to visit 14 of the 29 schools in BC that received a Farm to School (F2S) Salad Bar grant in 2016. With all of the schools now in the second year of their Farm to School (F2S) Salad Bar program, we believed it was a great time to pay their programs a visit and see how things have evolved. Claudia, our mainland animator, traveled east through the Okanagan and Kootenays Region, while Marcus, our coastal animator, visited schools on Vancouver Island as well as in the Cariboo region.
Our Coastal Animator Marcus Lobb spent a couple of days visiting schools in the Courtenay – Comox Region in early May, with stops at Huband Park, Lake Trail, and École Robb Road. All three schools were showcasing developed F2S programs, with robust salad bar services, and blossoming schoolyard gardens. Huband Park has acted as a training ground for some schools in the region, as their program is now 5 years old. Deep connections with local farms and two salad bar units allows this school to serve over 200 students each week. École Robb Road has duplicated the model at their own school, which has allowed them to serve nearly half the school population each month. Impressive community buy-in was noticeable in this region, and especially seen with the partnership between Lake Trail School and the Lake Trail Neighborhood Coalition, whose efforts and funds allow for the salad bar service to be free to over 120 students every week. The partnership also extends to their garden which was a perfect example of what an education garden can look like! One of the highlights was their usage of strawberries as ground-cover along pathways, and beneath fruit trees.
Cariboo region schools École Franco Nord, Horsefly and 108 Mile Ranch, while relatively small in school population, had incredible community support. Horsefly, whose program is run by parents in the community, is greatly supported by their Parent Advisory Council. A unique sponsor-a-child program allows community members to pay for the lunches of anonymous students who may not be able to afford to participate. Although there are few farms in some of these more remote arid climates, meat and eggs were sourced and donated from local producers.
Our Mainland Animator, Claudia Paez, visited 8 schools over the course of 4 days, starting with Brocklehurst Middle, AE Perry Elementary, and NorKam Secondary in Kamloops. Unique courtyard gardens, and active composting programs were standout initiatives at these schools. Claudia visited the schools with Farm to School BC Animator Addie.
Princess Margaret Secondary School in Penticton has partnered with retired community members to help manage their schoolyard garden in the summer months, which is key to the health of the plants. Sənpaq’ cin School,located in Oliver, offers a free salad bar service twice a week, and 3 free breakfast servings each week as well! They also have a large beautiful garden, with chickens that lay eggs for the program. Her last stop in the Okanogan regions was at Winlaw Elementary, where she learned that they are intending to purchase CSA food boxes from local farms in the coming year in order to source more local veggies – an excellent idea!
Travelling east, Claudia’s final stops were at Lucerne Elementary-Secondary and Crawford Bay Elementary-Secondary. Lucerne partners with BC Healthy Communities Society to offer their 3 hot lunches and 2 salad bar services each week to half the student population. A greenhouse and indoor microgreens operation provide food for the salad bar service and reduce the costs of purchasing. The school also has a unique and gorgeous garden that even has an outdoor clay oven for baking bread!
Crawford Bay is a small school that is reducing waste by sourcing “ugly produce” for their program. Dehydrating and canning are also an active part of the food education at this school. They purchased the equipment for these activities using money from their Farm to School grant.
This was certainly an incredible journey for Marcus and Claudia; a wonderful expedition that highlighted a wealth of experience and diversity, along with unique models that F2S can exhibit at each school. All this would not have been possible without the time, enthusiasm and dedication that F2S leads and co-leads, principals and collaborators invest into their school gardens and salad bar services each year. We thank them for their dedication and hospitality!