Parry Sound High School, Parry Sound, ON
2017-2018 (Year 2)
This year at Parry Sound High School, students from Ms. Collins and Mr.Graziottio class were able to follow food they planted in our box gardens all the way through to a delicious Thanksgiving dinner.
The Farm to School grant has had a significant impact at Parry Sound High School (PSHS) during its first two years. The school operates a cafeteria five days a week for the 750 students. The culinary classes prepare fresh food every day highlighting local foods wherever possible. Tuesdays feature a build your own taco bar where locally produced beef, and fresh salsa are among the choices for students. Wednesday and Thursday a fresh salad bar is prepared which is becoming more popular with the students every week. Much of the produce for the bar is now provided by a local organic farmer.
The growth this year has been amazing. Cafeteria sales increased by 17% from 2016-17 and real $ food purchases increased by 40% to a total of $14167 spent on locally produced products. This increase has been driven by the Farm to Table grant as it challenged to develop partnerships with local producers. Previous to this grant we did not expect to find much locally produced food in and around Parry Sound, ON as our environment is primarily rock and trees. We now have two farms that supply 10% of the total food budget for the school and next fall we are expected to add at least one more farm to our list of suppliers.
The grant has also enabled us to understand how to make best use of our box gardens. Last year we changed the focus to root vegetables so that the product would become ready when the school was in operation. The parsnips were so successful that they became part of PSHS Culinary students winning soup in the Soup for the Soul fundraiser for the Hospice in Parry Sound.
We are excited next year to have our aquaponics again and also we have arranged to have a tower garden in our school with the produce shared between our cafeteria and the harvest share food bank in town. We are also starting to prepare our own sausage and can locally (Hopefully box garden) grown pickles, beets and sauces.
To complete the circle the students who planted the gardens were involved in the harvesting and ‘dug in’ to a delicious Thanksgiving meal using the produce they had harvested put on by PSHS culinary students.
2016-2017 (Year 1)
Parry Sound High School has had 4 box gardens for several years. This past June, due to the help of Farm to Cafeteria Canada, they were revitalized and planted with an eye to providing local vegetables for the PSHS Cafeteria. Students from the Grade 7/8 community class took over the planting of the four box gardens with the goal of planting vegetables that would be able to be harvested in the fall for both Parry Sound High School and Parry Sound Intermediate. Using funds from our Farm to School Grant students added topsoil, mulch and sheep manure to try and encourage the growth of root vegetables that could be harvested and kept through the winter.
This fall the results were in! Even with a summer of no sun (and more than enough rain!) the students were able to harvest beets, carrots and even some turnips. They were stored in the kitchen and used for several events including pickled beets for the schools’ twice weekly salad bar, a special meal featuring only locally produced food for the Grown Around the Bay event and a fabulous Thanksgiving feast for the students who planted and harvested the garden.
While the carrots were packed with flavor, they were a little small so we had no great expectations for the parsnips which we left in the ground waiting for a frost to sweeten them for the harvest. When we finally sent several Grade 11 students out to pick the parsnips, we hoped for a few medium sized ones. Were we ever wrong! The students came back with black dirt all over their coats and parsnips as long as an arm. PSHS used the parsnips for several events and fundraisers and Grade 11 student Julia Lonsdale decided to use the final ones for the Soup for the Soul fundraiser, which is an annual Parry Sound event with 23 area restaurants providing soup to raise money for the Hospice in Parry Sound. Julia took two days to slow roast and flavor the soup and create delicious parsnip chips as a garnish. Members of the community loved the fact that the parsnips were grown at the high school and Julia was proud to tell the story of how she picked the massive parsnips. The event culminated with the Hospice raising $3000 and PSHS and its parsnip soup from the box gardens winning the best soup award at the event. Quite a trip from the lowly parsnip seed planted in June.
The parsnips and the rest of the root vegetables are now gone but everyone is looking forward to next year and even more delicious vegetables for PSHS and the Parry Sound community.