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What is Farm to School?

Farm to School (F2S) brings healthy, local food into schools, and provides students with hands-on learning opportunities that foster food literacy, all while strengthening the local food system and enhancing school and community connectedness. Farm to School empowers students and school communities to make informed food choices while contributing to vibrant, sustainable, economically viable regional food systems that support the health of people, place and planet. Farm to School looks different in each school throughout Canada and new models are continually emerging based on the creativity and existing partnerships in school communities.

 

The Farm to School Approach

Farm to School Canada

F2S activity may differ by school, but it is always directed toward getting more healthy local foods on the minds and plates of children and youth.
The farm to school approach includes the following elements

Healthy, Local Food:
Schools procure local food in many ways, including directly from farms or schoolyard farms, through food distributors, or by harvesting wild or traditional foods. When local food arrives in schools it may be served in a salad bar, hot lunch program, tasting activity, fundraiser, or community celebration.

Hands-On Learning:
Food literacy is a critically important component of Farm to School. Students learn about food, food systems, and food skills in the school garden, greenhouse, kitchen and classroom. They connect with nature and the environment. They may take field trips to local farms, forests, and shores.

School and Community Connectedness:
Farm to School is built upon strong relationships. Schools establish relationships with farmers, community members, and supportive organizations, tapping into local knowledge, passion, skills, and resources. Students connect deeply with their school and the wider community.

Farm to School Models

Photos (left to right): Nose Creek Elementary, Alberta; Skaadgaa Naay Elementary, British Columbia; Mark R Isfeld School, British Columbia
While Farm to School programs share a common goal and common set of objectives, the way the programs are operationalized can be as varied as seeds in a garden. Many different models exist.
Here are a few examples:
Local Food to School
Farm to School Snack Program
Schoolyard Garden or Farm
Farm to School Salad Bar
Farm to School Fundraisers
Farm to Caterer - to School
Farm to School Hot Lunch Program

(Includes Sea to School, Forest to School)

Local Food to School is a term that may be used interchangeably with Farm to School to reflect a broader range of food systems unique to each community.  Within this definition, “local food” can include seafood, game and other “wild” foods, that connect schools with fishers, elders and other knowledge keepers who can harvest and prepare these foods safely and in a culturally meaningful manner. 
Sometimes even the simplest programs can have a big impact. Apples, pears, snap peas, and cherry tomatoes and other seasonal local produce can often be distributed with little processing. Engaging students to try new things  during snacks or tasting events can then often lead into a more comprehensive program like Farm to School Salad Bar or Farm to School Hot Lunch program.
If closing the distance between farm and fork is a primary objective, building a farm (or garden) right on the school grounds may be the optimal Farm to School program. It reduces the distance food travels from farm to plate, ensures children have the freshest, tastiest foods possible, and acts as a living classroom inspiring future generations of growers.
Probably the most popular food service model – fresh local foods are delivered to the school and prepared onsite and served in a portable salad bar unit. Salad bars provide a full meal, usually 1 or 2 days a month, and students have an opportunity to choose what goes on their plate.
Farm to School (F2S) fundraisers provide schools and early childhood education programs with an opportunity to raise funds through the sale of fresh, healthy, and local vegetables and/or fruit. An alternative to traditional school fundraisers, these initiatives provide students and broader school communities an opportunity to connect with local farmers and improve their food literacy, while supporting local food system economies. Learn more. 
If your school does not have the space for a kitchen, consider the Farm to Caterer to School model. In this model foods are delivered to a central kitchen where they are diced and sliced and delivered to one or more schools.
Schools that have the infrastructure and mandate to provide student meals on a regular basis (often daily) can safely prepare hot meals, integrating as much local and sustainably produced food as possible into menus. This model is often seen in schools with cafeterias or student culinary programs, providing an additional opportunity for integrating food literacy.

Why Farm to School?

Brooklyn Elementary School, Comox, BC

Students Win

Farm to School provides students access to nutritious, high quality, local food so they are ready to learn and grow.

Farmers Win

Farm to School provides farmers opportunities to educate and connect with students in their community and can serve as a new market opportunity.

Axil Gardens

Communities Win

Buying from local producers and processors helps stimulate the local economy, while engaging community members helps to foster deep community connections.

Looking for more information about the benefits of F2S in Canada? Check out our Benefits of Farm to School.

Farm to School Resources

Farm to School Resources

Our Farm to School Work

Our Farm to School Work