Welcome to “Food Connects Features”

a new series that celebrates people across Canada who make vibrant school food programs possible for students. Thank you to Jennifer Bagan who nominated Dawn Guenette for how she fosters a sense of belonging, purpose, and inclusion for many students at Kidston Elementary School, particularly those who need extra support. 

Champion: Dawn Guenette (a.k.a. ‘Gramma D’)

Location: Coldstream, British Columbia

Nominator: Jennifer Bagan

Favourite way “food connects”: Planet

Link to F2CC: Farm to School Canada grant recipient 2020-2022

Photo Credit: Grayson Jeske

Every week, you’ll find Dawn at Kidston Elementary, a school of about 420 students in BC’s Okanagan region. For the past 10 years, Dawn has creatively combined her training as an early childhood educator with her mission to create a healthy food culture for generations to come. 

In her volunteer role as ‘Seed to Plate’ lead, she engages students in hands-on activities like garden planting and harvesting, cooking classes, and sharing food together. 

Sowing the seeds 

When Kidston Elementary School received a Farm to School Canada grant in 2020, Dawn was a key team player in connecting students to food through cooking sessions, harvesting from the school garden and preparing salad bars for the classes.

Dawn has been part of the teamwork in starting the school garden (named Kidston Discovery Gardens by the students) and providing locally sourced fresh-made meals for the students. Through gardening, she sees how food helps create friendships and how cooking classes provide an opportunity to connect to the school’s families through shared recipes. 

Dawn likes to watch the students create their own plates, including salads with the ingredients from the garden. “I love the pride in students when they get to harvest a vegetable they had a hand in growing, then to see them enjoy a meal with their classmates,” she says. 

In Dawn’s experience, the key to success is keeping the process simple and being open to kids’ ideas and letting them make the recipes and dishes their own creations.

Through these activities, students see where their food comes from. “The more they connect the dots with the source of their food the more likely they will want to grow their own food and eat local—simply because they’ve experienced how good fresh can be.”

Dawn’s vision for a perfect world

Dawn’s wish is for every school to have a garden that is supported by a garden mentor so more children have opportunities to grow and eat more fresh food, helping them to become more engaged learners.

How food connect us  

While food connects us in many ways, we asked Dawn to pick one “food connects” theme that really resonates with her. She chose “Planet”

“I find it powerful to think that by doing a seemingly simple thing like teaching a child how to plant a seed, we can essentially improve the health of our planet. A generation of healthier, engaged people will have more capacity to care for their planet.”

How Dawn is helping to transform school food 

By fostering a sense of belonging, purpose and inclusion for many students at Kidston Elementary, Dawn is helping Farm to Cafeteria Canada live its mission to transform how food is experienced, learned and celebrated in all schools across Canada.

Thank you Dawn for all you do as a school food champion!

Nominate someone you think is a School Food Champion!

Food Connects Features is a series of profiles that celebrate people across Canada who help make vibrant school food programs possible for students. Nominate someone today! 
Support Kidston Elementary School and other Champion schools!

As a recipient of a Farm to School Canada Grant, Kidston Elementary School shows their commitment to foster vibrant school systems, but they can’t do it alone. If you would like to help support more individuals like Dawn and school communities like Kidston  to create lifelong connections between students and their food, and the systems that produce it please consider making a donation of any amount.