Food First NL has partnered with Farm to Cafeteria Canada to support Farm to School initiatives that 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.
Farm to School Salad Bar
When a group of students at St. Bonaventure’s College approached their teacher Chris Peters, asking for a wider variety of healthy options in the cafeteria, he got in touch with Sarah Ferber, Education Manager with Food First NL.
Food First NL, St. Bonaventures College, Lester’s Farm, Chartwells Food Services, and Farm to Cafeteria Canada worked together to successfully implement the first “Farm to School Salad Bar” of its kind in Newfoundland, and launched it in the spring of 2015.
The self-serve, all-you-can-eat salad bar allows students to pick from a variety of fruits, vegetables, and dressings. As much produce as possible comes from Lester’s Farm, and it changes with the season to ensure freshness, variety, and availability of healthy offerings.
Peters says one of the main ideas behind the program is to get kids thinking about food — where it comes from and how it’s grown. It’s a long term goal of the school to improve food literacy among students by connecting the program with the school curriculum. St. Bonaventure also hosts a composting program to divert organic waste, and a school garden that produces food for a local food bank.
Peters is eager to see more schools across the province launch farm to school salad bars. “I’m glad our school is starting this, but I’d really like to see other schools in the province take this on. We’re getting the ball rolling,” he laughs. “Or the seed planted. Whatever metaphor you want to use.”
We will be announcing 3 more local schools to adopt a similar farm to school salad bar program in 2018.
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
In 2016, Food First NL organized the first ever Provincial School Food Gathering.
More than 20 key stakeholders from a variety of sectors came together to discuss and imagine the future of food in schools. 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