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Elementary and High School Work Together for Salad Bar Success!

Sydenham High School, Sydenham, ON
Sydenham High School, Sydenham, ON
2018-2019 (Additional Story)
Sydenham High School is in a rural setting yet holds about 700 students.  It was very fortunate to receive a beautiful new kitchen as part of a renovation a few years ago.  In collaboration with our neighbouring elementary school, Loughborough, we have been helping to provide local food for our students.  

Local greens, meat and cheese have been sourced from market growers and food hubs, as well as local grocery stores when necessary.  Secondary students in our culinary arts classes prepare salad bar items for over 100 students at the elementary school. In our first year we invited intermediate aged students to help prepare the food they were serving at their salad bar.  Last year we streamlined production with only our secondary students but did invite our future Sydenham Hawks to come over and bake cookies to get a look at the culinary kitchen. Students feel proud of the food they have prepared.  

After the elementary school salad bar has been delivered, our culinary classes enjoy a meal of the same fresh produce selections.  The simplicity of a single food order and preparation day to supply two schools makes offering this small secondary salad bar easy.  Students say they prefer to eat local and healthy food over greasy options that teenagers are historically known to gravitate toward.  If they know where it’s from and how it is prepared, they seem to appreciate their food even more.  

We have noticed that students appreciate a variety of protein offered week to week, such as cheese, egg, grilled chicken, ground beef and sometimes bacon!  It makes sense that growing kids want a filling meal at lunch to keep them running through the day. We ensure it’s a balanced meal by offering a great variety of fresh fruit and veggies so that kids can construct their ideal salad.  Choice is the key word when it comes to encouraging participation!  

We look forward to a continued relationship with our neighbouring school who will soon be our students and will no doubt demand continued access to local and healthy food at school. 


Loughborough Public School Garden and Salad Bar Program
Loughbourough Public School, Sydenham, ON
2017-2018 (Year 2)

Loughborough Public School Garden and Salad Bar Program We make the call on the announcements for each of the three divisions and listen for the thunder of feet to rush down to our foyer where the locally provided food awaits. Prepared just across the road by culinary students from our neighbouring high school, this food is a fine mix of baby greens, various chopped veggies and fruit, along with protein options such as egg, chicken, beef or cheese. Now in our third year offering a salad bar program at Loughborough Public School, about a hundred students and staff (out of a school population of 400) enjoy farm fresh and healthy lunch once a week.

Our volunteers are at the heart of our program’s success!  Both parents and students have been the mainstay of our salad bar delivery.  A team of parents take a turn a month supervising groups of student leaders as they help our youngest students to fill their salad containers.  Next door to our elementary school is a local high school where culinary students prepare the fresh greens each week.  Truly, the program runs on a community’s efforts. 

“I really enjoy volunteering at Salad Bar and interacting with other students in our school. It brings everybody together, and as somebody who has only been in this school for just over one year, it has helped me to meet new people. – Stella, Grade 8 student at Loughborough P.S. ( Something that would make it even better is a greenhouse to supply food grown at the school! 😉)

Teaching food literacy through hands-on gardening and cooking has helped to bring meaning to our Farm to School program.  For six years our school has been growing seedlings destined for a local food bank garden.  Grade 7 students tend to the greens in the spring and then harvest into fall of their grade 8 year.  At school, students also tend large raised beds growing produce which makes its way into our salad bar too.  To manage waste and grow soil each class is outfitted with a stainless steel compost pail.  Outside, classes make daily contributions of organic material to our three chamber composter.  Older classes turn the compost, aerating it, and add chopped leaves.  At its peak, our compost really got cooking, peaking at 150 degrees farenheit!

As a media literacy activity our class created educational radio spots to promote our school’s salad bar program, eating locally and making healthy food choices.  Students enthusiastically wrote and recorded these public service announcements, which were then played on the morning announcements.  Our hope is that this has helped to generate a school culture that values healthy and local food, as well as the people and land that are part of its growth. 

When your guest speaker is a dynamic personality who loves to cook and feed her audience, the buy in from students is 100%.  Our local guest chef, Andrea Duggan, ran a series of cooking workshops with our students ranging from bread making to butternut squash-a-polooza. She left us with recipes, skills and an enthusiasm for trying new things in the kitchen. 

Whether accessing our Loughborough Salad Bar Club, learning to cook or getting our hands dirty in the garden, food literacy has been a multi-faceted journey for our school. 

“When my daughter brought home school lunch forms, I was expecting the same fast food options like hot dogs and pizza.  A salad bar was never offered at her former school! It was refreshing to be offered a healthy lunch at a very affordable price, all in a reusable container.  My daughter looks forward to it every week. I believe all students deserve the opportunity to eat freshly grown food and more schools need to model healthy living.” – Bryna Abbott, Loughborough Parent

Loughborough Public School is located at 4330 Wheatley St, Sydenham, ON K0H 2T0


2016-2017 (Year 1)
Loughborough PS and Sydenham HS cultivate Food Literacy

In nature there is no waste, merely a cycle of cycles. One thing always leads to another. What a beautiful model to emulate.

It is hard to say where the Loughborough Public School and Sydenham High School Food Literacy project begins. Does it start with the food our school and local farmers grow? The food our students prepare? Perhaps it begins within the soil students are growing in our school wide compost system. Or, could the energy and excitement for this project be coming from the culture of healthy eating and food literacy that is growing? Just as nature works in cycles, the Loughborough / Sydenham Food Literacy Program continues to cultivate itself and to flourish.

In the gloomy days of February something green and new was sprouting in our intermediate classrooms. Students started a variety of seedlings under grow lights as they learned about germination and garden planning for the coming gardening season from local author and master organic grower, Janette Haase. Her 6 workshops with three different classes helped to sow the seeds of excitement for the coming salad bar program that spring and got students thinking about how they might start their own food gardens at home this year. Today, we are harvesting fresh spinach, lettuce and snow peas from our raised beds to include in this week’s salad bar!

Almost all the produce, meat and cheese that is served to our Salad Bar Club members comes from local farms, Local food hub. Wendy’s Mobile Market, collects such items from our region and delivers them to the Sydenham kitchen each week. As the growing season advances, our own raised beds provide more food and variety of local choices increases. It is wonderful to see students excited about what comes to fruition in the garden. Students even took part in a Shiitake mushroom workshop where they inoculated oak logs with spawn. We are looking forward to visiting some of the local market gardens where our produce is grown and to meet these farmers, out-standing in their fields!

This spring, students from grade 7 have walked across the road to Sydenham High School to work under the guidance of Culinary Arts teacher Catherine Walsh along with her secondary foods program students. The beautiful new kitchen is inviting and is where the local produce is prepared for the next day’s salad bar. Students have learned to make salsa, taco salad, chicken Caesar salad and prepare cut fruit and veggies. Some are talking about how they hope to take food courses when they make it to high school too.

The next day, secondary students wheel over a tall cart holding nutritious contents to serve at the Loughborough salad bar. Ice is loaded into the serving unit, classes are called down to the foyer and parent and student volunteers help the youngest children as they build their lunches. Remaining produce is saved and will be given back to the high school Food Sharing Program, providing students in need of a free lunch with nutritious options and is available for culinary students to purchase. As this program develops into the 2017/18 school year more students from the School to Community classes will be invited to purchase lunches as well as they are not served by the high school cafeteria.

The best gardens have a healthy soil ecosystem. This was a central message of my Organic Master Gardener course I took through Gaia College in preparation for our project this winter. This training led to worm composting in our classrooms in the winter, producing bins of rich soil amendments. Then, thanks to our grant, we purchased a solid stainless-steel compost pail for each classroom in the school! Everyday organic matter is brought outside to our three chamber compost bin located beside our raised garden beds. With a school of four hundred elementary students, we are quickly seeing the growth of new soil that we can use in future gardens.

Creating a sustainable, waste-free program is important to us. That is why we have subsidized the purchase of stainless steel lunch kits that students can fill each day of the week, as well as Salad Bar Club Day. The three sizes of lidded food safe containers allow less packaged, fresh and healthy foods to come to school in something that will last for years.

The buzz around this project has been spreading! Students, parents and staff are all on board with the idea that local healthy food options are delicious and make us feel good when we eat them. Our Parent Council Volunteer Lead, Krista Sigurdson tells us the following;

The amazing thing about having a salad bar introduced at your school is the excitement. Who knew salad could elicit such energy?! I was worried when it was first introduced. I wondered if people would recognize the value of the containers or if that would inhibit some sign up. When the first round of sign ups elicited 100 participants, I knew I didn’t need to worry. I was surprised again by the undercurrent of excitement in the school as the first salad bar day drew near. “What would be in the first salad?”  “How would it work?” “I signed up! Did you sign up?” When the day finally arrived, the kids were super excited. They peeked over the people in front of them in line to see what they could see. They scanned the salad bar with the eye of a salad expert. As a parent, it was quite amusing to see the fun side of salad.

The interest and excitement hasn’t waned. The kids still have to be asked to walk not run in the halls as they try to get to the salad bar first. The ones who didn’t sign up still circle the salad bar asking when the next sign up is. I’m shocked, but our kids are eating salad, and thus far they love it. The first reminder I put up on our Facebook page brought some responses that confirmed what I was seeing each day. “Oh gosh my daughter couldn’t let me forget she is more excited about salad bar then pizza day lol” “Omg Abby’s favourite. And the containers are amazing! Well worth the 20 dollars in my opinion.” There are still some minor details to sort out, but for a first run, I’d say it’s a success.

For the last five years, students from Loughborough have volunteered weekly at the local South Frontenac Community Services Food Bank Garden and Greenhouse. Managed by our local garden expert, Janette Haase, our class has learned about the many facets of growing food. Students work alongside adult volunteers and seniors who attend the community centre where the garden and greenhouse is, and help to wash and pack produce for the food bank. Our lessons here are as much about growing community as they are about food.

As we eye the fresh calendar of September down the road, we plan to build on the excitement and energy that this year’s program has grown so far. We will continue to dig in the soil, sow seeds, harvest healthy things that are grown close to home and spread the idea that a happy life includes eating well. The cycle of learning and understanding the value of food literacy has begun for our Loughborough / Sydenham community.

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