At South Nelson Elementary School, we feel that we have genuinely incorporated the Farm to School vision with the successful implementation of our weekly salad bar lunch program which features fresh and local vegetables. We have two local farmers who deliver produce directly to our school. A baker from our neighborhood who bakes fresh bread, using local wheat, also delivers to our school (sometimes with his car that runs on pedal and solar power). Our own Grade two students have successfully grown sprouts and greens which we have served on our salad bar.
We are delighted with the fact that our students have visited the farms where we get some of our vegetables as well as the local farmers market. In addition, our local Food Cupboard accepts our compost helping students develop a literacy about the benefits of composting. The Food cupboard has its own amazing gardens which are nearby. Our locally run Kootenay Co-op also provide us with local produce as well, helping us enjoy a sustainable supply of vegetables.
Our students participate in the preparing, planning and serving of our salad bar. We have recently started an apprenticeship for grade 4 and 5 students to work in the kitchen preparing the salad bar. Here they learn that preparing food straight from the earth requires more care and preparation than store-bought food. They also help with inventory which, in turn gives them experiential lessons in appropriate inventories, and understanding that we need to order only what we need as fresh food is much more perishable.
We are currently planning a salad bar extravaganza for our year end wrap up. We will be inviting all of our farmers and suppliers in addition to parents to enjoy a salad bar lunch. This will give families a chance to meet the farmers and get a sense of the hard work that goes into growing food for a community.
Finding affordable local food during the school year is the most challenging aspect as the prime growing season is during the summer. Therefore, the variety of local produce available during the winter is not always “kid friendly” and the main goal is for the children to actually eat what is offered. Our parents pay for the salad bar lunch and one of our goals it to keep it affordable as we serve a population that cannot afford expensive items.
Parents are very pleased to have our Farm to School program provide healthy options for their children. After seeing our success, a very positive outcome has been that two other Nelson elementary schools have started a salad bar lunch and also applied for a F2S grant for next term. Two of the three farmers who provide us with local produce, are now growing extra crops just for these three lunch programs which really makes us proud of our work With the future in mind we are creating workshops for next winter’s salad bar that include ideas like making sauerkraut, pickles, applesauce, teaching our children that we can take advantage of our growing season to have a sustainable production of food for the entire year.
We have many students involved with the F2S salad bar in many different aspects. Two of our classes have visited the farms we purchase food from. Our older students take turns setting up and serving the salad bar. The beauty of this is that it includes encouraging students to try new foods, making themselves a well-balanced lunch and being able to identify each vegetable. A grade3/4 class made signs for each salad bar item identifying the name of the vegetable, what farm it’s from and where the farm is located. Our grade 4/5 students are currently apprenticing in the kitchen by doing inventory, preparing food for salad bar lunch and learning proper storage techniques, definite life-long skills that are good to see at such a young age.
Our school has purchased and grown about 40% local food for our salad bar lunch. This initial round has prepared us to increase that percentage for next growing season/school year as the farmers add capacity and additional options are built in from the Local Co-op and the Food Bank.