Farm to School: Canada Digs In! (Canada Digs In!) has been a multi-sectoral partnership designed to prevent chronic disease. Launched in 2017, Canada Digs In! has set out to improve student nutrition and food literacy while building community and strengthening local food systems.
This interactive report tells the story of this 5-year initiative and builds on our 2020 report. It celebrates the champions who made it possible, provides links to practical resources developed along the way, and showcases the project’s impacts.
Farm to school gets students eating, cooking, growing, and embracing healthy, local food. Through farm to school activities, students connect with their communities and develop food literacy, all while strengthening vibrant, sustainable, economically viable regional food systems.
“Local Food to School” is a term that may be used interchangeably with “Farm to School” to reflect a broader range of food systems unique to each community. Within this definition, “local food” can include seafood, game and other wild foods that connect schools with fishers, Elders and other knowledge keepers who can harvest and prepare these foods safely and in a culturally meaningful manner.
In order to celebrate and amplify the many ways that farm to school takes shape in different communities, and to show how farm to school involves the whole local food system, we developed the 2 visuals below:
Graphic Recording: Carina Nilsson
Graphic Recording: Carina Nilsson
The goal of Canada Digs In! has been to scale up Canada’s farm to school movement and enable students to develop the life-long knowledge, skills, and habits to support their wellbeing, their communities, and the planet.
The project has worked to:
This partnership has made us feel part of a bigger movement, and provided evidence-based best practices to help guide our efforts.”
– Regional Partner on Canada Digs In!
The Public Health Agency of Canada’s $3.0M investment in Canada Digs In! is the largest federal investment in school food in Canada to date (excluding emergency funding during Covid-19). With this initial investment, Canada Digs In! has been matched by an additional $3.0 M of cash and in-kind contributions from its 19 other project partners.
In a recent partnership survey, 100% of respondents indicated that their partnership with Farm to Cafeteria Canada has increased their organization’s:
Regional Leads are members of the Canada Digs In! project implementation team and are the go-to contact for Farm to Cafeteria Canada in their region. Throughout the initiative, the Regional Leads have worked as a team to advance farm to school initiatives in their regions and across the country by facilitating capacity building, network development, knowledge translation and exchange and evaluation. The Regional Leads typically work for a partner organization based in the geographic region they represent. These individuals have held the Regional Lead position in their respective provinces.
Newfoundland & Labrador
In 2021 we expanded our Advisory Council, which is responsible for stewarding Farm to Cafeteria Canada’s direction, success, and ensuring long-term sustainability. Members provide guidance and support projects and program development, while helping to grow our national network and strengthen partnerships. F2CC is committed to building and sustaining an Advisory that is representative of the unique individuals, sectors, and communities we serve.
“There is real strength in connecting with — and sharing information with — leads in other provinces. We have a lot to share and also to learn from them.”
“F2CC has created a network of like-minded people and organizations across Canada and there is enormous value for our local organization, and nationally, by bringing us all together.”
The Farm to School Canada Grants program provides 2-year grants of up to $10,000 each directly to K-12 schools to deliver farm to school programs by:
Over the 5-year Canada Digs In! initiative Whole Kids Foundation provided funding for 4 rounds of grants. Farm to Cafeteria Canada has administered the program and regional partners have provided on-the ground resources and supported participating schools.
9 provinces + 1 territory
9 provinces + 1 territory
Learning Circle Grants are valued at $50,000-$70,000. They support multiple schools, individuals, and organizations across the local food system to come together to collaborate and build, strengthen, and/or expand collective farm to school / local food to school efforts within a local community.
In 2019, F2CC, in partnership with the Social Planning & Research Council of BC, provided Local Food to School Learning Circle Grants to two communities:
Q’wemtsín Health Society (QHS) supported Sk’elep School of Excellence, from Tk’emlups te Secwépemc, and Skeetchestn Community School to hold learning circles in their communities – Watch the video “Learning Circle Stories: from Tk’emlups te Secwépemc and Skeetchestn Indian Band”
Comox Valley – read Growing a Movement: Farm to School in the Comox Valley
In 2021 funding from Whole Kids Foundation enabled two other organizations, Headwaters Food and Farming Alliance in Ontario and Food For All NB, to receive Learning Circle Grants that are now under way and will complete in early 2023. Learn More.
F2CC partnered with Meal Exchange from 2017-2019 to support the Good Food Challenge initiative. This on-campus campaign empowered post-secondary students to work with their university or college to provide food that is accessible, community-based, ecologically sound, socially just, and humane.
Campuses signed the Good Food Campus Commitment to show leadership and innovation in the food system and accountability to the well-being of their student community. By signing the commitment, they agreed to increase their procurement of Good Food to 20% by 2025 and make Good Food more affordable and accessible for all students.
Learn more about Farm to Campus and the Good Food Challenge.
Designated Regional Leads across different provinces were responsible for coordinating and supporting schools.
During the Canada Digs In! initiative over 225 representatives from the participating K-12 schools received training on implementing and sustaining their programs. This training, which included presentations from chefs, farmers, local knowledge keepers and past grant participants, shared how to:
The two initial rounds of grantees received training in person. The majority of the 2020 round of grantees received training virtually to account for the reality that grants were now being distributed to schools across the country and to meet restrictions in light of Covid-19.
We created and supported the development of a wide range of resources to fill gaps in information and to profile the great work happening in school communities to connect students to healthy, local food and opportunities for food literacy at school.
In early 2021 we launched the Edible Education Community of Practice (CoP) to provide a supportive space for those working on Edible Education initiatives (e.g. farm to school programs, land-based learning, school gardens, cooking programs, outdoor education) to connect with, learn from, and collaborate with other practitioners across the country. The CoP cultivates relationships and encourages the sharing, exploration and development of resources and experiences to inform, inspire and amplify impact.
The CoP has held 5 meetings to bring practitioners together:
Presentation recordings and information about the CoP are available on the
Community of Practice page.
In 2022 Farm to Cafeteria Canada updated its School Food Map so that more schools and community partners can share their school food activities and connect with each other.
Through F2CC’s 2021 strategic planning process we identified a need to create a National Youth Engagement Strategy that amplifies the voices of the youth in Canada who are impacted by our work. In spring 2022 we reached out to youth aged 15-20 across the country and developed two paths in which young people could participate:
Throughout March 2022 F2CC hosted a series of 4 workshops with 12 youth from across Canada to listen to their experiences with food at school, and hear how F2CC can better engage youth in its work. From the workshops youth gave us 4 key recommendations. Additionally, youth also submitted some great stories about their experience with food in their school community.
from students and teachers, to academics and policy makers from across Canada and the United States gathered in Victoria, BC in May, 2019, to INSPIRE, INNOVATE & organize for IMPACT to close the distance between farm and fork and bring more healthy, local & sustainable foods to the minds & plates of students.
View the conference proceedings report here.
We are proud of what we have enabled so far; however, we know that we need to do much more to better honour the Indigenous peoples, histories and lands on which we all live today.
F2CC has been working within our own team to envision how our mandate, operations and institution can better include, reflect, honour and amplify Indigenous voices, perspectives, values, and ways of knowing. We are doing this with the spirit of nourishing relations.
The objectives of these sharing circles were:
During these conversations participants shared stories, spoke about challenges, shared concerns with the “Farm to School” term and made recommendations for how F2CC could support Indigenous communities so that people who are looking to integrate Indigenous foodways and healthy, local foods into their school communities have more resources and connections to do so. Participants recommended that F2CC hire an Indigenous person onto the team, expressing that for programs to be successful, Indigenous leadership needs to be present.
Worked with the Coalition for Healthy School Food and Canadian Feed the Children to develop an Indigenous School Food Working group to bring people together to network and share experiences. This has included hosting meetings and developing a map of stories about school food programs in Indigenous communities and for Indigenous students.
Hosted conversations and shared resources on the theme of Land-based learning.
Increased the percentage of Farm to School Canada grants given to Indigenous schools. Over 50% of our 2022 round of grants are committed to schools in Indigenous communities or with a high percentage of Indigenous students.
Learn more and access stories and resources on our:Nourishing Relations Site
The final framework articulates 18 outcomes, 9 high-priority policy/community level indicators and 11 high-priority indicators that people have said that they want to see measured at the school level relating to 4 impact areas: Public Health, Education, Community Economic Development and the Environment. It shares a full list of 45 priority indicators as well as other Indicator ideas that people wanting to evaluate their programs can select from.
How can programs get started with measuring the indicators in the Framework? As next steps coming out of the Framework F2CC has started to develop tools that school communities can use:
Data from 2016 & 2018 grant recipients
Students gain the skills and habits needed for a lifetime of healthy eating when they participate in farm to school programs.
Farm to school brings curriculum to life and enables hands-on student learning.
Farm to school connects schools with farmers and increases local food procurement.
Farm to school supports student wellbeing and connection to their community.