Helping connect young people with local food — and food security.
Recognizing the vital role that schools play in our food system, Food First NL has partnered with Farm to Cafeteria Canada to support schools through Farm to School NL. Farm to School initiatives aim to bring healthy, local food into schools, and provide students with hands-on learning opportunities that foster food literacy, all while strengthening the local food system and enhancing community and school connectedness.
Food First NL has supported Farm to School through three main activities:
Farm to School Salad Bar
In response to students' desires to see more healthy, local options in their cafeteria, Food First NL supported the development of a Farm to School Salad Bar at St. Bonaventure's College in St. John's.
After a year of planning, applications, and teamwork between the school, Food First NL, Lester's Farm Market, and Chartwells Food Services, the Farm to School Salad Bar Program was launched in the spring of 2015.
The all you can eat, self-serve salad bar features a colourful array of fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as homemade buns and local chicken. Parents volunteer to chop vegetables the day before, and students both prepare and oversee the salad bar during lunch. Where possible, the food is locally sourced from Lester's Farm.
One of the main ideas behind the program, was to get kids thinking about food—where it comes from and how it's grown.
The St. John's School has been a trailblazer in this regard: they have a composting program to divert organic waste and a school garden that produces food for a local food bank. One long term goal of the program is to improve food literacy among students by connecting the program with the school curriculum.
Currently, the salad bar operates two times a week, but the hope is to increase that, and see other schools across the province launch similar initiatives.
Farm to School Learning Lab
Food First NL partnered with the School Lunch Association (SLA) to facilitate a series of learning labs, aimed at supporting the advancement of Farm to School within the SLA's network of schools. With plans to serve 825,000 meals in 25 schools in 2017-2017, the SLA has an important role to play in moving the Farm to School vision forward in the province.
The Learning Labs brought together representatives from 18 different organizations (including Eastern Health, NL English School District, Memorial University, Seed to Spoon, and more) and helped the SLA establish valuable partnerships in the drive to make cafeterias better champions of healthy eating. Eastern Health Regional Nutritionists now provide ongoing support to ensure menus meet School Food Guidelines, while a collaboration with Lester's Farm seeks to put more local produce—like fresh, crisp carrots—on students' plates.
Advancing Farm to School Provincially
Food First NL is aiming to increase provincial knowledge sharing, awareness, and skills around school food. To this end, we organized the first ever Provincial School Food Gathering in September of 2016.
More than 20 key stakeholders from a variety of sectors came together for a day of discussion on the present and possible futures of school food. Connections were made, ideas were shared, and everyone came away from the day with a renewed energy.
Both the Salad Bar and Learning Lab are part of a growing network of Farm to School Programs championed nationally by Farm to Cafeteria Canada. They are part of the Nourishing School Communities Project funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and Health Canada through the Coalitions Linking Action & Science for Prevention (CLASP) initiative. Learn more at www.farmtocafeteriacanada.ca