Ecole Robb Road, Comox, BC
2017-2018 (Year 2)
Our second year of Salad Bar has been a delicious meal to count on every Tuesday at École Robb Road Elementary in Comox, British Columbia. We are so fortunate to live in the Comox Valley, to be able to enjoy the bounty of our veggie growing community right here on Vancouver Island. The local Salad Bar school community is also growing as we just heard the great news that Mark Isfeld Senior Secondary and Brooklyn Elementary in the Comox Valley are starting programs at their schools too, we couldn’t be happier for them as we know how rewarding it is to offer students and teachers a healthy meal while supporting our local farmers. In our school, Salad Bar Tuesday nourishes the bellies of 260 students and staff and we hope to encourage even more crunchers next year.
We started our program in March 2017 after receiving the grant from the Whole Kids Foundation. This allowed our school to finalize our salad bar plan as we had been fundraising for this program for a couple years. Our school was ready to take on the role of providing a yummy meal each week that was based on local seasonal fruits and veggies, farm fresh eggs, whole grain carbohydrates and plant based proteins plus cheese! We knew it would be a great choice parents would love, but the growing number of salad bar enthusiasts were beyond what one salad bar unit could efficiently serve, so we purchased an additional unit with our grant money this year which has made meal service so easy and quick. Less time waiting in line means students have more time to munch their salad and it takes more time to eat a fresh salad bar meal than a sandwich so time is of the essence!!
Our Salad Bar team is a strong one and has been the key to our success. Our coordinator and grant champion is Lauren Clark. With her background in nutrition (she is a dietitian) and experience working with children at the local community centre offering nutritious cooking classes, we were in great hands. She also is a parent and passionate about offering nutritious and delicious food to students to help nourish their bellies and minds! She plans the menu weekly and coordinates the volunteer schedule. However let’s face it, a successful Salad Bar program relies on more than one committed parent volunteer! We have parents who shop and parents who chop. Parents who help serve and those who are in the dish pit. Every volunteer is so valuable to a sustainable program. Teachers and students have been so thankful and their excited smiles make the planning and preparation worthwhile.
Our school garden is also growing. We have two new green houses that have tomatoes, peppers and herbs. We also have veggie beds with lettuce, herbs, peas, carrots, onions, radishes, potatoes and more. The two programs, Salad Bar and Garden Club have joined forces to ensure we have even more veggie contributions from our garden whenever seasonably possible. Our Seed to Plate program run by farmer and parent Natasha Taylor continues to be a success. Students plant the seeds for a meal that they later prepare in our outdoor classroom. Fresh herby salad with nasturtiums and margarita pizza were on the menu this spring. Students love making the important connection of planting, growing, preparing and of course eating!
École Robb Road Elementary is a shining example of the power of offering healthy food. Student and salad bar fan Adeline told her mom she wants to be a farmer and a healthy cook. You can’t underestimate the impact of offering nutritious food and allowing kids to prepare food. These are the formidable years for introducing healthy lifestyle choices and connecting children to their local growing community. As one young boy said to his school friend who was eating our salad bar for the first time, “You think this is good? It’s only the beginning”.
2016-2017 (Year 1)
The École Robb Road salad bar team is thrilled to share our school’s salad bar story with all of you. École Robb Road is in Comox, BC on Vancouver Island. We have been growing our program for a few years through fundraising and planning and the Whole Kids Foundation grant allowed our schools goal come to fruition.
We always knew the salad bar would be a great meal program to provide for the students and staff at École Robb Road but we had no idea how excited the children truly would be to fill their plates with veggies! When we launched our program, in the first few weeks of March 2017, the children would be in awe as we set up the meal in the hallway, scheming of ways to be first in line. We had children hiding in bathrooms, peering in through the windows from outside instead of playing on the playground, it was like salad bar lunch was a rock concert and the students were diehard fans. We had to make emergency shopping runs for lettuce as we underestimated their love for greens!! Many volunteers have noticed children whose plates were initially limited in their selection are increasingly getting more colourful. Some plates are heaping so high it’s hard for them to walk back to their classroom to eat. We couldn’t be more excited with all the plates of food and the hungry kids who seem to be as committed to our salad bar as the team is to preparing it.
We are so happy to be able to shop at our local Comox Valley Farmers Market when peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes are in season. We can’t wait for fall when we can support more of our local farmers who grow apples, root vegetables and more! Eatmore Organic sprouts are picked up weekly on the way to salad bar day and many students who hadn’t even seen a sprout are hoping we don’t run out by the time they get to the front of the line! Berry season is approaching and we are already dreaming of ways to incorporate local blueberries before the school year ends. The teachers are begging for our homemade salad dressing recipes and plan their field trips so they don’t have to miss salad bar, Tuesday is the best day of the week and Monday isn’t so bad either when they realize they don’t have to pack a lunch for the next day. Students can be heard saying ” it’s so fresh” and chanting “let’s go salad bar, let’s go.”
Our salad bar team is entirely made up of volunteers. These dedicated parents are passionate about preparing fresh, nutritious, and delicious food. We offer our salad-based meal weekly, and we alternate between primary and intermediate students as we have such a large salad bar following! Our food scraps head to a local farm for the pigs next meal, always feels good to pay it forward.
Our school garden has been growing for the past 9 years. Our garden consists of 20 raised garden boxes, large native plant gardens, 6 fruit trees, and berry plants, including raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. Each teacher is allocated a garden box and the schools garden club has several boxes.
Teachers can also participate with a facilitator on ‘Seed To Plate’ projects which involve planning a food dish where most or all of the veggies can be grown in the school garden before the end of the school year. Students are guided in seed planting, weeding, fertilizing, mulching, watering, harvesting, preparing food and finally sharing their food dish together.
The next step in connecting the two programs will start to take shape this coming year. We will be acquiring greenhouses and hope to plant and grow with our salad bar in mind!
The fruits of our labour is seeing the smiles of students and staff. We hope to continue this program for years to come.
Submitted by Lauren Clark, Salad Bar Coordinator École Robb Road Elementary