Photo Above: A mural depicting the Saskatchewan First Nations School Garden Program. Graphic Facilitation: Shelley Keyes.

First Nations school communities in Southeastern Saskatchewan have started a school garden program to help children, youth and families make healthy, local, and sustainable food choices. There are three schools involved: Chief Gabriel Cote Education Complex, Keeseekoose Chiefs Education Centre, and the Kakisiwew School Ochapowace First Nation.

The schools are doing great things with their gardens:

  • Learning about healthy eating by growing, preparing and preserving food from the gardens
  • Supporting school meal programs with the garden harvest
  • Developing  healthy school nutrition policies
  • Partnering with students, parents and other community members

On March 24, 2015, representatives from the three communities met to share stories about their school community gardens with representatives from the partner organizations (Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, Heart and Stroke Foundation and Propel Centre for Population Health Impact). Each shared experiences from their first year with their garden. They described what worked, the challenges they encountered, as well as ideas and plans they have for the future.   

Students from Chief Gabriel Cote Education Complex planning (Spring 2014).
Students from Chief Gabriel Cote Education Complex planning (Spring 2014).
Chief Gabriel Cote Education Complex:

On May 27, 2014, the Chief Gabriel Cote Education Complex kicked off their community gardening activities. Students in Grades 1 to 12 helped seed and plant many types of vegetables. Each grade planted different fruits and vegetables.

When their garden was ready for harvest, the students, teachers, and community members got together to prepare a locally-grown feast in the school gymnasium. Students from all grades helped prepare and can their fresh grown vegetables. As a community, everyone made the feast a giant success!

Keeseekoose Chiefs Education Centre:
Students from Chief Gabriel Cote Education Complex preparing the harvest feast (Fall 2014).
Students from Chief Gabriel Cote Education Complex preparing the harvest feast (Fall 2014).

Keeseekoose Chiefs Education Centre also had a vision to create a school garden in front of their building. Although they had some challenges, through their hard work, the children and community enjoyed growing potatoes in their garden. In the future, Keeseekoose Chiefs Education Centre would like to continue involving their community in their garden project.

Kakisiwew School  Ochapowace First Nation:
Students and teacher from Kakisiwew School planning (Spring 2014).
Students and teacher from Kakisiwew School planning (Spring 2014).

Kakisiwew School Ochapowace First Nation had great success in their first year planting gardens at the school and in the community.  Their goal was to support local healthy food environments.

The students from grades 3 to 6 participated with the help of their community members and Elders. The community and Elders were involved by helping to weed and water the plants, as well as demonstrating how to can vegetables. Their harvest included everything from yellow beans, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, and strawberries. They incorporated these vegetables and fruits into a Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner for the entire community held at the Kakisiwew School.

Last summer, the school also hosted a Leadership Health Empowerment of Youth (HEY) culture camp with 28 students.  The workshop included topics about preventing chronic disease through a nutritious diet and fitness activities. This leadership camp really kick-started their goal and motivated the whole school community including students, teachers, principal, elders, parents and community partners.

Join us at our “Changing the Menu” conference to learn more about these projects and many other exciting initiatives:  http://changingthemenu.org/.

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