A number of schools across Ontario are entering the third year of their Farm to School Salad Bar Grants, and the Farm to Cafeteria Canada (F2CC) blog has been blooming with their 2018 stories and updates, touching on everything from food literacy and local food procurement, to student nutrition, sustainability education and more.
Whether it’s developing hands-on food literacy skills, forming healthy eating habits, forging positive relationships, or growing excitement about local food and farms, there’s no doubt the F2CC grants are reaping benefits rich and deep. These schools’ stories wonderfully demonstrate the far-reaching power of good food in schools.
And with student participation growing as the salad bar programs become more established, it seems the students are pretty fond of farm-to-school too.
St. Dominic Elementary School in Oakville ended their second year with 195 students and staff members visiting their salad bar every week. (St. Dominic was also one of the schools to participate in the Farm to Cafeteria Salad Bar Poster Contest, with their grade 2’s awarded first place in the elementary division!)
Oakwood Public School has shared that their student enrollment is at a record number of approximately 120 kids and staff, which includes about 30 kids who are being offered complimentary salad lunches thanks to support from Halton Food for Thought.
At Parry Sound High School, cafeteria sales increased 17% from 2016-17, and food purchases increased by 40%, for a total of $14,167 spent on locally-produced products.
The stories continue to show how these initiatives not only support healthy schools and students, but also local farms and economies.
The schools are also finding fun ways to incorporate the healthy items on their menus. Parry Sound HS hosted a ‘build your own taco bar’ on Tuesdays with locally-produced beef.
And Primrose Elementary School had fun with tacos too, sharing that they had students bouncing down the halls chanting “I love salad” and “ohh yay, it’s taco day!”
Located in Dufferin County, some of Primrose’s salad bar suppliers are only a few-minute drive from the school. They’ve shared on the blog that, more than once this year, the salad bar helped students who needed a little “boost.”
Regency Acres Public School in Aurora also has students saying “Is tomorrow Salad Day? I’m so excited!”
During their second year of the grant, Regency Acres offered 20 salad days and served almost 2,000 salads, meaning that approximately 23% of the school ordered salads as a healthy lunch option.
But it’s not just the numbers that have grown, it’s also the students’ skills.
In Caledon, Robert F Hall Community Secondary School students have been working in the classroom to not only prepare, serve and maintain a well-balanced salad bar, but they’ve also begun learning techniques in sprouting and seed planting for conventional gardens.
Students at Fellowes High School in Pembroke are also learning the value and pride that comes with growing your own food, with the launch of the Fellowes Fresh Food Project that has students growing vegetables to supply the salad bar.
“What I love about the culinary program and the greenhouse project is that we get to use the food that we grow in the food that we cook,” one student shared. “It’s homegrown and very fresh. Whenever there is a recipe that calls for herbs I can just run up to the greenhouse and cut my own.”
École Secondaire Hanmer in Sudbury has beautifully demonstrated how food is a powerful relationship-building tool, and can support intergenerational relationships. At the heart of their story is an 89-year-old volunteer who plays an integral part in their school garden. He’s now employed as the school lunch monitor, and has built relationships with many of the students — so much so that some students are even volunteering their time during the summer to help him in the garden!
Heydon Park Secondary in Toronto is one of the schools using an exciting hydroponic system to grow their salad bar lettuce, and “the students are loving it!”
On a typical lunch day, the school serves between 80-90 students, but on salad bar lunch day, the line is out the cafeteria and serves between 120-130 students.
Nobel Public School has noticed an improvement in the general knowledge of healthy food choices and in the number of salad bar options that students are choosing.
“The grade 5/6 class who is primarily responsible for the food prep have honed not only their kitchen skills.” their blog story shares, “but also have developed the ability to problem solve on the go and work together to ensure the salad bar operation runs smoothly.”
Nobel PS has put a focus on sustainability education with their grant, building planting beds, purchasing aeroponic tower gardens to help supplement the salad greens through the winter, and they partnered with the local college to place a honeybee hive in their educational apiary to highlight the importance of pollinators.
For the second year of their grant, Quinte Secondary School in Belleville aimed to expand their networking with local farms. This year, 40 of their students traveled to a nearby orchard to learn about the growing and harvesting of various fruits and vegetables. Students had the opportunity to pick various items and return to the school with bushels of apples, pumpkins, squash, corn and tomatoes.
While each school has put their grant to use in their own way, the funding has ultimately enabled students to connect with their local farms and farmers, grow and harvest food themselves (and experience the fulfillment that comes with that!), and put that quality food to use in the classroom where it fosters cooking skills, and in the cafeteria where it promotes healthy eating.
There are even more stories on the F2CC blog, and the above are only snippets of each school’s update, so be sure to read more on the Farm to Cafeteria Canada website.
The possibilities that begin with good food are endless – we can’t wait to keep reading these stories as they pour in, and we hope you’ll continue to follow along too!