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Teaching Wellness and a Healthy Lifestyle through a Farm to School Lens

Carleton Village Sports & Wellness Academy, Toronto ON
Carleton Village Sports & Wellness Academy, Toronto ON
2018-2019 (Grant Year 1)
As a Sports & Wellness Academy, Carleton Village school in Toronto, has an enhanced curriculum and school wide commitment to student well-being and healthy living, making it an ideal fit for incorporating a Farm to School Approach.  Every student participates in experiential workshops on physical activity, mental health and nutrition several times a year, on “Fit Fridays”.  The school nutrition program offers a daily Morning Meal for all students (kindergarten to grade 8) and a nutritious lunch is available as well.  This year, the Farm to School grant has increased the focus on eating fruits and vegetables and making healthy food choices. Below are a few highlights from this year’s growing Farm to School activities:

A team of staff, parents, and community partners (including teachers, principal, Public Health, school board, and Food Share) met to plan the implementation of the grant in the fall of 2018.  The Salad Bar feature was launched at a school concert event in January, 2019.  The shiny new appliance provided a sensory feast of fresh produce in the middle of winter; enjoyed by parents, guardians and students.  Four school wide Salad Bar days have been held since then, including a variety of fruit and vegetables and other food groups, run by Nutrition Coordinator, Gezel Hudson.  Gezel has been the lunch cook and snack provider for the last five years at Carleton Village.  She is part of the community and strongly committed to teaching and assisting all students to choose, prepare and enjoy healthy and delicious food. 

Salad Bar Morning Meals are busy and time consuming, but make a big impact on students’ day.  Parent volunteers help to prep food the day before.  During the morning, teachers bring classes to the cafeteria for their usual nutrition break and get so much more! 

Overheard in the line-up: 

“What’s your favourite?”

“I’ve never tried this before!”

“I like the colours!”

One volunteer mom commented that her 6-year old son has started eating vegetables at home because he followed his friends’ tastes at school.  Teacher supporter, Ms. MacVicar watched in amazement as her grade 1/2 class devoured heaps of broccoli and melon.  Her students expressed it this way, “Snack time is one of the best times of the day!”.  “This is awesome—I didn’t have breakfast!”

“Fit Fridays” provided opportunities for students to learn food skills and develop healthy appetites!  Students participate in wellness workshops of their choice:  yoga, sports, art and music, etc.  Kitchen workshops are among the most popular; including two food literacy workshops held this year (Making Salad Wraps; and Smoothies by Pedal Power) offered by Food Share, a non-profit partner organization.  In her bustling kitchen, Gezel works with six grade-8 student volunteers as mentor and chef.  They value the work experience and learning they take with them beyond school.  Gezel also hosted special needs students from a local high school as part of their work experience program.  The lunch menu features salads and fruit as well as delicious homemade entrees.

For next year, Carleton Village is looking forward to more Salad Bar days, urban farm field trips and school vegetable garden and possibly indoor tower garden and workshops for parents to learn, too! 

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