Thanks to a Halton Region-led program, more than a dozen schools from the Halton District School Board receive fresh food and fresh ideas every fall about how students and staff members can make healthy eating choices.
Farm to School brings fresh, locally grown produce into Halton public and Catholic elementary schools. The program started in 2007 as an extension of Halton Region’s Simply Local initiative, which aims to raise awareness about healthy living and Halton farms.
Participating schools receive farm fresh food in the fall of each school year and are provided with menu ideas – from provincial agencies like the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Eat Right Ontario – and healthy eating curriculum support materials such as sample fruit and vegetable morning announcement ideas, website links and fun resources and games like fruit and vegetable bingo.
The 13 Halton District School Board schools participating in the program receive healthy foodstuffs like cherry tomatoes, broccoli, green beans, sweet peppers, pears, apples and carrots. They are delivered once a week for eight weeks, and each school program coordinator receives materials to promote healthy eating.
According to Halton Region, 62 per cent of girls and 68 per cent of boys aged 9-13 years of age eat fewer than five servings of vegetables and fruit daily. Health Canada recommends six servings a day for these age groups.
Initially launched as a pilot, the program had a modest goal of increasing the proportion of locally-grown vegetables and fruit within an existing student nutrition program in one school by five per cent. That goal was achieved early in 2008 at a pilot school in Burlington with the help of Halton Food For Thought (HFFT), which provides a healthy snack program in schools. The program was rolled out to include five Halton schools in 2009-2010 and then expanded to 10 schools in 2010-11. Three new schools started in the fall of 2011: Dr. Charles Best in Burlington, Sam Sherratt in Milton and Joseph Gibbons in Georgetown, bringing the total to 13 schools now involved in the program.
Lorna Wilson, Halton Farm to School Coordinator, says buying and enjoying locally-grown produce offers plenty of benefits including students consuming healthier foods, increased knowledge of the role they play in the food system, and a more self-reliant food economy that happens when farmers, consumers and communities are linked together to support and promote the local agricultural sector.
“All of the participating schools have awesome volunteers who ensure the food products are washed and cut for the students to enjoy,” says Larson.
Peter Lambrick, one of the farmers participating in the program says, “It’s wonderful to be able to connect with the kids and help them understand where food comes from and the role they play in the food system. Locally-grown produce offers many benefits.”
As an extension of Farm to School, Halton Food for Thought is working on a school garden project to encourage schools to develop an edible garden where they can grow their own vegetables to eat and to learn about healthy eating choices.
For more information about Farm to School, visit www.halton.ca/farmtoschool.
For more information on Halton Food For Thought’s student nutrition programs, visit www.haltonfoodforthought.ca.