Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute (Secondary), Toronto, ON
2018-2019 (Grant Year 1)
Our journey began in 2017 with a casual conversation: a student garden would support our greenhouse activities, and make a great connection for our hospitality program… and with that we should have a student salad bar!

Our overall vision was to foster a culture of local and sustainable food at MGCI. In 2018, we were delighted to receive the Farm to Cafeteria Grant, helping to springboard our efforts. With a supportive administration, eager student and parent volunteers, community partners and a great team of educators, we were able to get started. Last June saw the construction of our student garden raised beds, and planting began with our volunteers and summerlunch+ (a camp kitchen organization that feeds kids, employs students, oversees our kitchen in the summer and helps to tend the garden). 

The 2018/2019 school year saw technology classes focusing on local and sustainable food system practices. Our kitchen received the first part of a much needed equipment overhaul (a new grease trap and dishwasher), and we connected with new suppliers such as 100km Foods and Greenshift. While our long term goal is to have reuseable dishware and cutlery for our food service, we are delighted to have embraced compostable products for all of our single service items. This also lends itself to our growing compost and vermicompost initiatives at the school. 

By March 2019, we were ready to start our weekly salad bar. We set up in the main cafeteria so that we were visible to the whole school. Rather than promote a theme, we highlighted seasonal produce and at least one new or unique vegetable. Our selection each week was so varied that we set up not only our shiny new salad bar but three tables to hold everything in a row for service. Our first week was free for students and staff. Subsequent weeks were $3 for students, $6 for staff, and free for all students involved in the preparation or cleanup. We were building up a following, and even the administration got in on the fun with improv announcements to promote Thursday “Salad Days”. A group of Grade 12 regulars offered to write reviews in support, telling us that they will miss Thursday lunches next year. During Ramadan our numbers dropped, as expected, but our last week saw record numbers and a lineup all the way across the cafeteria. Feedback has been great, with students and staff expressing how much they are looking forward to this event continuing weekly, if not more frequently. 

We are delighted that our 4 hydroponic towers just arrived, and student volunteers assembled them so that they are ready to go for September. We have also partnered with Agscape to bring more food-system focused workshops to our students and an agriculture conference at Evergreen Brickworks (Fall 2019) for students in our Technology and Science departments. Students from the Canadian and World Studies department will be creating a map to showcase the various local farms that supply the salad bar. Our main kitchen will be undergoing more renovations in the fall, but we are looking forward to using our new mobile kitchen to work on projects to preserve our harvest in September/October. This year’s pickled pearl onions were a great hit, so we’ve invited Chef Tara Lee, of Eastbound Brewing, to help us expand our repertoire next fall. We’ve had a great start, but this is just the beginning. 

“Thursday has become an eventful occasion that all students and staff eagerly await and that is for one reason only – The Salad Bar. Like the beanstalk from “Jack and the Beanstalk”, The Salad-Bar at Marc Garneau has exploded out of nowhere and gained extreme popularity within a short period of time. The Salad-Bar has introduced the student body and staff to fresh, healthy and new foods (including vegetables, fruits etc.) for a galvanizingly affordable price so that almost everyone is able to enjoy the experience. From pickled onions, to the creamy pasta salad, all the way to the blue-berry parfaits, students and staff indulge in everything the salad-bar has to offer and are extremely content with the result. Students love the food and even go on to try to learn the recipes, and find the vegetables in their local grocery store. I have personally loved all the new food the Salad-Bar has introduced to me and my friends. Everyone is ecstatic about this weekly occasion.” – Matin Sarahi, Grade 12 Student

“The Salad-Bar is a fun and joyful introduction to the world of healthy eating and has promoted students and staff to pursue more leafy greens in their day-to-day diets. Rather than spending their money on pizza, chips and other unhealthy foods, many have now turned to the Salad-Bar with their money, truly seeing the value in healthy food. It just goes to show that if people were able to eat healthy foods at affordable prices, more people would turn away from the junk food which leads to an unhealthy lifestyle accompanied by a myriad of health-related issues. The Salad-Bar is not only healthy for the school’s population, but also for our sweet mother Earth as well. The utensils, cups and plates that the Salad-Bar serves students and staff in are biodegradable and therefore, can be composted. Many students do not know of composting and the benefits it has for the environment. However, the Salad-Bar has taken the initiative to expose students to this world of composting when they expose students the foods as well. Students are encouraged by staff to compost as all the services for it are only a step away. They are also are actively learning about what can be composted so they can do the same when they’re at home. The Salad-Bar does a wonderful job of providing this knowledge to students to better the health of the students and the environment.” – Mohammad Taha, Grade 12 Student

“If only one word was to be used to describe the arrival of the weekly “Salad-Bar” to the cafeteria of Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute – Unifying. Ever since its overwhelming debut, students have been exposed to not only a variety of foods and desserts, but also to new friends. The moment the clock’s hands strike twelve, the cafeteria floods like water does to plants as students and teachers rush to line up in order to fill their plates and stomachs with the long-awaited meal. The lines of the salad-bar extend very far, allowing students and staff to converse among each other while they wait, forging new friendships in what seems like such a small event.” – Dawood Khokhar, Grade 12 Student

“I have never seen so many faces sitting at a single table inside of the cafeteria, watching each other take a bite of the mysterious-yet-mouthwatering new foods introduced by the salad bar. Curiosity turns to delight as everyone loves the food they are served and are eager to have seconds. Everyone enjoys to be in each other’s company and talk over their fresh and delicious lunches. Seeing the expressions on everyone’s faces, the smiles, and laughter the fresh food accompanied by fresh faces makes the Salad-Bar a delightful experience. None of this would be possible about the support of the school staff and the people who fund this service at our school.” – Syed Rizvi. Grade 12 Student

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