WL McLeod Elementary School, Vanderhoof, BC, WL McLeod PAC Farm to School: Canada Digs In! Report 2020

ABOUT THE INITIATIVE

Farm to School, Farm to School Canada

Canada’s First National Farm to School Initiative

Farm to School: Canada Digs In! (Canada Digs In) is a multi-sectoral partnership designed to prevent chronic disease. Launched in 2017, Canada Digs In has set out to improve student nutrition and food literacy while building community and strengthening local food systems.

This interactive report tells the story of the first three years of this initiative. It celebrates the champions who made it possible, provides links to practical resources developed along the way, and showcases the project’s immediate impacts.

$4.5M Invested

$2M Gov’t
~
$2.5M matched cash and in-kind

11 Core Project Partners

1 Federal Gov’t
~
1 Provincial Gov’t
~
1 Private
~
8 NGO

5 Provinces

BC
ON
QC
NL
NB

56,000 Students

35,000
K-12 
~
21,000 campus

103 Schools

86 K-12 grant recipients 
~
10 campuses 
~
7 Farm to School month winners

$938,000 granted to schools

Grants of up to $10,000 each delivered directly to K-12 schools

What is Farm to School?

Farm to school gets students eating, cooking, growing, and embracing healthy, local food. Through farm to school activities students connect with their communities and develop food literacy, all while strengthening vibrant, sustainable, economically viable regional food systems. 

The Farm to School Approach

Project Goals

The goal of Canada Digs In is to scale Canada’s farm to school movement and enable students to develop the life-long knowledge, skills, and habits to support their wellbeing, their communities, and the planet.

The project works to:

  1. Implement farm to school programs across Canada in elementary, middle, and secondary schools through the Farm to School Canada Grants program, and on campuses through the Good Food Challenge.
  2. Build capacity by providing training, resources, and knowledge-sharing activities to school communities.
  3. Evaluate the initiative, providing the first-ever empirical evidence of the impacts of farm to school in Canada.

The Power of Partnerships

Farm to School: Canada Digs In! is a wonderful example of what is possible when multiple partners who have aligned values, and a diversity of experiences and knowledge, come together at the same table to advance a common aim.

- Joanne Bays, Founding Director, Farm to Cafeteria Canada 
Canada Digs In project partners came together to get more healthy, local food on the minds and plates of students to promote healthy living and prevent chronic disease. 

The Public Health Agency of Canada’s $2.0M investment in Canada Digs In is the largest federal investment in school food in Canada to date. With this initial investment, Canada Digs In has been matched by an additional $2.5 M of cash and in-kind contributions from its 10 additional project partners. 

National
project 
management  

(click to visit)

Sustain Ontario

Ontario project coordination and support to participating schools through their Edible Education Network

(click to visit)

Meal Exchange
Campus project coordination and support to participating campuses across Canada

(click to visit)

Government
financial
partner

(click to visit)

Equiterre
Québec project coordination and support to participating schools 

(click to visit)

Heart & Stroke
Project planning and 2019 conference sponsor

(click to visit)

Sponsor of the Farm to School Canada Grants program

(click to visit)

Newfoundland and Labrador project coordination and support to participating schools

(click to visit)

SPARC BC
Evaluation lead and F2CC administrative sponsor

(click to visit)

British Columbia project coordination and support to participating schools through their Farm to School BC program 

(click to visit)

Government of New Brunswick
New Brunswick project coordination and support to participating schools

(click to visit)

The project implementation team includes representatives from each of the provincial partner organizations and Farm to Cafeteria Canada. This group meets regularly as a community of practice.  

“There is real strength in connecting with — and sharing information with — leads in other provinces. We have a lot to share and also to learn from them.”

“F2CC has created a network of like-minded people and organizations across Canada and there is enormous value for our local organization, and nationally, by bringing us all together.”

IMPLEMENTATION

Farm to School Canada Grants 

Farm to School Canada Grants provides grants of up to $10,000 each directly to K-12 schools to deliver farm to school programs by

  • Serving local food in a farm to school salad barand 
  • Engaging students in hands-on learning by growing, preparing and enjoying healthy, local food.  

Whole Kids Foundation provides the funding for the grants. Farm to Cafeteria Canada administers the program. Regional partners provide on-the ground resources and support participating schools.  

Read more about the Farm to School Canada Grants program.

Campus Good Food Challenge

This on-campus campaign empowers post-secondary students to work with their university or college to provide food that is accessible, community-based, ecologically sound, socially just, and humane.  

Campuses sign the Good Food Campus Commitment to show leadership and innovation in the food system and accountability to the well-being of their student community. By signing the commitment, they agree to increase their procurement of Good Food to 20% by 2025 and make Good Food more affordable and accessible for all students.

Learn more about Farm to Campus and the Good Food Challenge.

CAPACITY BUILDING

To support participating schools and campuses, we developed resources and offered training and knowledge-sharing opportunities. Designated Regional Leads in each province were responsible for coordinating and supporting schools. 

A total of 163 representatives from the 86 participating K-12 schools received training on implementing and sustaining farm to school salad bars and food literacy. This training, which included presentations from chefs, farmers, local knowledge keepers and past grant participants, shared how to: 

Farm to School, Farm to School Canada

Source local food for the salad bar 

Prepare and serve the salad bar smoothly

Sydenham High School, Sydenham, ON

Engage students in hands-on food literacy activities including growing, preparing and serving food

Promote the salad bar and more!

The project offered additional training and supports between
September 2018 and June 2020 including:

Regular regional community of practice meetings

Webinars

Visits to schools by the regional leads 

1:1 phone and email supports

Sharing of school stories

Private regional Facebook groups

(some provinces) 

Regional Leads:

Claudia Páez Varas

CLAUDIA PÁEZ

British Columbia

CAROLYN WEBB

Ontario

Geneviève Chatelain, staff page

GENEVIÈVE CHATELAIN

Québec

Melanie Cormier

MÉLANIE CORMIER

New Brunswick

SUZANNE HAWKINS

Newfoundland & Labrador

3 National Farm to School Month celebrations were held

$13,500 in seed grants were awarded
Farm to Cafeteria Canada, Farm to School Canada, Farm to School, Farm to School MonthFarm to School Month in Canada is celebrated each October. It invites school communities, from pre-school to campus, to “Dig In” to farm to school. It is intended to showcase the many diverse farm and local food to school activities happening across the country, while inspiring others to join the movement. 
Farm to School, Farm to School Canada
Waverley Elementary, Vancouver, BC, Barb Finley
Primrose Elementary School, Mulmur, ON, Jennifer Payne

Canada’s first National Farm to School Conference was held

Farm to Cafeteria Canada, Farm to School Canada, Farm to School, Farm to School Conference

2019 Farm to School Conference

300 delegates

from students and teachers, to academics and policy makers from across Canada and the United States gathered in Victoria, BC in May, 2019, to INSPIRE, INNOVATE & organize for IMPACT to close the distance between farm and fork and bring more healthy, local & sustainable foods to the minds & plates of students. 

View the conference proceedings report here. 

EVALUATION

Canada Digs In led the first-ever comprehensive evaluation of farm to school in Canada. Between June 2017 and June 2020 our project team planned and delivered the following evaluation activities: 
0+
student interviews (grades 4-6)
0
student surveys (grades 4-12 students)
0
Campus Good Food audits
0
rounds of school progress reports
0
rounds of key informant interviews
0
partnership review

The results are in, and demonstrate that farm to school benefits:

Public Health

Students gain the skills and habits needed for a lifetime of healthy eating when they participate in farm to school programs.

100%
of schools and campuses prepared and served more healthy, sustainable, local food
96%
of schools reported increased student consumption of healthy food

Education & Learning 

Farm to school brings curriculum to life and enables hands-on student learning. 

95%
of schools reported students had greater knowledge and were more aware about gardening, agriculture and the environment
32%
of students reported their focus in class had increased

Community Economic Development 

Farm to school connects schools with farmers and increases local food procurement.

91%
of schools recognized themselves as leaders among other institutions in the procurement of healthy, sustainable, local foods
87%
of schools increased the amount of local and healthy food they procured and provided to students

Vibrant School Communities 

Farm to school supports student wellbeing and connection to their community. 

87%
of schools reported they had increased connections within the school and the broader community including with Indigenous communities, local farmers and chefs, other schools, neighbouring preschool programs and seniors residences, and groups such as the local Boys & Girls Club
82%
of schools reported that the salad bar created a greater sense of vibrancy and excitement

GROWING FARM TO SCHOOL

Growing healthy, resilient, sustainable communities
Farm to school builds resilient, connected communities that benefit the health of people and planet.

Momentum is growing!

Loughborough Public School: Climate Action and Reconciliation through Food Literacy

34 more schools
(12,900 students) in
9 provinces and
1 territory 

begin their Farm to School Canada Grants journey in September 2020
Read Past Stories
F2CC School Food Map, Farm to Cafeteria Canada, Farm to School Canada, Farm to School

1230 schools

have self-reported farm to school activities on Canada’s National Farm to School Map 
See our map!
Farm to School Evaluation Framework
We’re developing an

Evaluation Framework 

for Farm to School in Canada to better understand the short, medium and long-term impacts
Read More

Join the movement to bring more healthy,
local food to the minds and plates of students. 

Help us achieve a future where farm to school is in every school. One where

Every child
Every farmer
Every community
 

experiences the JOY
of farm to school!

CONTACT

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Farm to school is a movement without borders. This initiative would not have been possible without the dedicated partnership of a diverse group of individuals and organizations. We’d like to extend sincere thanks to the passionate school and campus-based teams and the countless community supporters who continue to champion farm to school, including:

STUDENTS

Teachers & Professors

Principals

Parents

Food service staff 

Community partners

Community volunteers

Chefs, farmers, fishers, hunters, foragers, elders

Public health practitioners (dietitians, nurses, health inspectors) 

Contributors
This report was prepared by
  • Jesse Veenstra, National Director
  • Tracey O’Neil, Design & Communications
  • Carolyn Webb, Regional Lead ON
  • Danielle Côté, Advisor
  • Jyotika Dangwal, Program Coordinator
  • Monica Petek, Researcher, SPARC BC
See the full list of project partners and team members here.
CDI partner logos