St Dominic Elementary School, Oakville, ON
2017-2018 (Year 2)
After a successful first year with our salad bar, we were confident that the St. Dominic school community would once again be supportive of our Farm to Cafeteria salad lunch program for year #2 but we had no idea HOW supportive!
Our first 8-week term went on sale September 12, 2017 with the hope that we’d have a majority of our 132 students return from last year. We were pleasantly surprised (and a little nervous) when all orders were counted, and we had 172 confirmed for putting the crunch back in their lunch! We had heard that 1 salad cart could comfortably serve 150 students in a 20-minute time frame, but what would we do with 172?! With the support of our school administration, we quickly decided that we needed to expand and add another salad cart to our collection. There must have been a “guardian salad angel” looking out for us as we found a used cart for sale that we could buy and have set-up in time for the start of our first term! So, on October 4th, 2017 we began our salad service with 2 salad carts and a lot of eager students!
The 2017/2018 school year would see us complete three 8-week salad terms or 24 salad lunches. Our participation numbers continued to grow, and we ended the year with 195 students and staff members visiting the salad bars once per week until the end of April 2018. As part of our belonging commitment to the school community, we ran 4 additional salad days in May. These 4 days were offered for free and were open to all 630 students.
Year #2 also saw our weekly menu’s get more creative. We kicked off in October celebrating Farm 2 School month and offered fresh fruits from local farms, Drummond Farms and Lincoln Line Orchards. We hosted a Halloween Spook-tacular, turned the carts red & green for Christmas, celebrated our first birthday in January with a Hungry Caterpillar theme and served the ever so popular taco salad! We celebrated Valentine’s Day with fruit & veggies cut into heart shapes, served only green foods for St. Patrick’s Day and introduced a Korean menu for the start of the Winter Olympics. While theme weeks allow for a lot of fun, they also allow us to introduce new foods to the students but shhhh, don’t let our secret out!
The 2017/2018 school year ended on an exciting note when our grade 2’s participated in the Farm to Cafeteria Salad Bar Poster Contest and they were awarded first place in the elementary division. The children created over 50 salad posters boasting about the benefits of eating local, fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables and it was through these drawings that we realized the positive impact our program was having on our students. We know that the growth in our participation rates is a good indicator of our success but seeing the students illustrate the carts and the farms where the foods come from is heartwarming and fulfilling.
2016-2017 (Year 1)
What an exciting 2016/2017 school year it has been at St. Dominic Elementary School! Our year started with our grant application being accepted from Farm to Cafeteria and becoming 1 of 23 schools in Ontario to participate in this unique salad bar program. We were thrilled and once the celebration settled down, we “dug in” as we knew that offering a fresh, healthy salad bar at our school with 610 students and no cafeteria or dedicated kitchen space would be challenging. The St. Dominic CRUNCH team, lead by parent volunteers, was ready though, as the importance of teaching the students about the benefits of healthy eating have been a part of the school culture for some time.
To help with sustaining the lunch program, it was decided that the salad bar would be a paid program ($5 per week), and to ensure that no student was left out, funding was made available through school council support and our local community partner, Halton Food for Thought. We also decided to incorporate a reusable, St. Dominic logo’d, 2-compartment food container. This container spoke to the vision of the Green Warriors (student lead Eco team) and acted as a “ticket” for participation in the program.
The salad bar rolled out to 123 students on January 25th, 2017 and with the commitment that for the next 7 sessions, they would have the opportunity to make their salad the way they wanted, choosing from a variety of fresh, local fruits and vegetables, grains and proteins. There were challenges initially, it’s not easy getting 123 students to make 123 salads in the 20-minute lunch period, but with double siding the cart and support from the St. Dominic staff to supervise the salad students (essentially extending the children’s lunch period), each week got smoother and smoother! As each week passed, we saw excitement build in our school with students exclaiming, “I love Wednesday’s, it’s salad day!” and from the students who initially frowned upon the idea saying, “I wish I got salad!” Those students wish came true, as we offered a 2nd term (8 sessions) at the salad bar beginning March 23rd, 2017 and to our delight, we had 132 students and 6 staff members make the commitment to put the CRUNCH back in their lunch!
As the students & school staff excitement grew, so did the ideas! We prepared a “thank you” salad lunch for our grade 2’s & 4’s who had helped with the school fundraiser and we decided to open our very own pop-up restaurant, the CRUNCH Café, for 3-days at the end of March. The CRUNCH Café saw all 27 classes (gr. JK-8) enjoy a salad lunch for free. We also used the salad cart to prepare a healthy, fresh lunch for the school staff as an appreciation for all that they do.
It has been an incredible year with our “red rocket”, our affectionate nickname for our bright red salad bar cart! We successfully offered 15 salad lunch sessions with everything from local Ontario cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and pickled beets to edamame, snap peas, cauliflower, and yes, broccoli! We saw students fall in love with local turkey pepperettes and hard boiled eggs and enjoy sweet potato & quinoa veggie meatballs. They learned what it means to be a Localvore, and that even tacos could be made into a salad! And, while the salad cart may be done for this year, our commitment will not stop. To quote our Vice-Principal, Mr. Nelson Costa, “We are ready to build children’s food literacy, I have no doubt this salad bar program will be a success for years to come”.