Lake Trail Middle School
Lake Trail Middle School, Courtany, BC
Total Number of Students: 331 in our school
2017-2018 (Year 2)

The heart of Lake Trail School’s Weekly Salad Bar program is a core group of incredibly dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers. This group of 10 volunteers show up religiously every Tuesday to prep the salad bar ingredients for service on the following day. They are never late. They never ‘no show’ (except for illness) in which case the others rally to cover their spot. These wonderful people are parents, they are grandparents, and some are community members who don’t have any family at the school but just believe so strongly in the program that they want to be a part of the experience!

The positive energy that this group exudes, I believe, is a big reason the salad bar program is such a success at Lake Trail School. It is infectious, and they pass it on to the kids when they are serving up the plates. The kids line up down the hallways to get their plate of lovingly prepared vegies. The servers interact with each individual student who comes through the line. They ask them what they want on their plate and encourage them to try any new items that show up from time to time. In the late fall we were able to access fresh beets from a local farm market. These beets were cooked and cubed with feta cheese and put out as a salad bar item. Many of the kids had never tasted a beet before and some had never even heard of beets! They were skeptical, but with the encouragement of the salad bar servers most kids agreed to give them a try. Not all were ‘sold’, but a few were, and the rest still walked away with the experience of having tried something new.

As the year progressed into late fall one of the volunteers invited the group to her home for a bowl of soup prior their work session. This transpired into a regular social gathering of the volunteers outside of the Salad Bar work commitment. It is now the end of the school year and at our final ‘luncheon’ together, plans were being made to get together over the summer, so they can stay in touch. They all plan to return in the fall.

Another reason this volunteer group work so well together is their shared commitment to the service of fresh local vegetables whenever possible. Lake Trail School is fortunate to be situated in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, which boasts a long outdoor growing season in a fertile valley. We can access ingredients for our salad bar right from our school garden (for part of the school year) and when more is needed, we have plentiful options from local growers.

Eventually, as with most of our Canadian peers, we must include imported ingredients to see us through the winter months. We have mitigated this by substituting in one salad bar a month with a ‘hot’ salad, which is really just soup! We use local ingredients from the school garden that were preserved in the fall, so are still keeping with the theme of ‘fresh, local veggies’.

Whether it’s a salad bar day, or a ‘hot salad’ day, the students at Lake Trail get excited. When they see the salad bar serving centre being set up, and the ingredients being moved out…you can hear kids making plans with their friends on where to meet to eat together. It’s a weekly highlight at Lake Trail School.

2016-1017 (Year 1)

As a Principal, I have had the pleasure of observing fist hand the impact of a Farm to School Canada Grant. Farm to School funds have helped to dramatically change the food culture of our school. Our team at Lake Trail School  has been able to  leverage the funds to strengthen our partnership with Lake Trail Neighbourhood Connections. We serve a very high needs community and being able to bring fresh, local food to the mouths of our children is vital. Lake Trail Neighbourhood Connections is the community-based organization that we partner with on many projects of mutual benefit and the engine behind our Farm to School work. With the grant we received we have been able to increase the nutritional value of the food we serve our students throughout the week, been able to introduce students to local food and produce that is easily accessible, and been able to engage them more in thinking about what they are eating and where it is coming from.  As one staff member commented,

‘When I first started at Lake Trail, many moons ago, there was no garden, no volunteers, maybe the odd one here and there, and lunches that were good, but definitely not great or particularly nutritional. Wow! The school, community and volunteers have come a very long way, with a lot of very hard work. The difference in what we bring to the table at lunch is phenomenal. Using all the great greens from the garden (fresh and frozen) in our smoothies year round, a free salad bar to all our students and staff on Wednesdays, healthier meals every day and a great hot breakfast on Fridays is game changing. I have watched the students’ faces light up with anticipation on what they are going to eat today, especially on Wednesdays.”

A catalyst for some of this growth and evolution has been the Farm to School Grant, and the benefits go well beyond just our students.

“Being a volunteer with the salad bar and healthy eating programs at Lake Trail School has been one of the most rewarding things I have done. Seeing firsthand the difference it makes for the students to have a free healthy food choice available on a weekly basis is one of the best feelings. I began with the salad bar program in the spring of 2016 and am fortunate to still be able to help out each week. I see a huge change in the choices the students make now, they are willing to try new things and often surprise themselves by liking a new vegetable that they had never even heard of before. One of my favourite times is when I ask a student if they want to try something new and they go for it, I always tell them they don’t HAVE to like it just TRY it – you might find out you love it. It is so worth it when they come back for more! My favourite day of the week is Wednesday when I get to help serve salad and chat with the students and see the long, long line up of smiling faces. The kids are always so excited when we are setting up for service, amazing to see students this age excited about SALAD, so great! The students of Lake Trail are continually polite and grateful for the healthy food they receive I think the programs are a giant win for everyone involved.”

As one parent, who also volunteers said,

“I personally think that the Farm to School project is crucial to our school, students, and the community. I grew up in an environment where we lived off the land and sea where our daily lives centred around the dinner table. Seeds were planted, daily fishing and hunting wild animals who lived off the land untainted by chemicals and sprays. Eating live food kept us from the doctor only when we had a broken bone or a sprained ankle. We had healthy bodies and mind. Sickness of all kinds were rare. I feel we have moved away from old ways of life and our health and well being of our children are being compromised. With convenience food packaged by factories, mass produced dead food and unethically raising animals filled with chemicals are a part of the cause for mental physical and emotional problems today. As well, with parents working outside of the home and the demands of life today knowing our children are being fed wholesome food at school that promotes healthy minds and bodies takes some of the stress out of our daily lives.”

Gerald Fussell
Lake Trail School
Courtenay, BC

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