Contributor: Farm to Cafeteria Canada (Reprinted with permission)
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There’s an old adage about how food brings people together. The students at Elizabeth Wyn Wood alternate program have experienced that first hand since we received a farm to school salad bar grant in 2018.
Our school is a unique secondary alternate program for students who haven’t had success in their previous schools for a wide variety of reasons. We’re located right in Ottawa, Canada’s capital.
One of our “sister” schools, Norman Johnston, was awarded a Salad Bar Grant back in 2016 and it changed the entire culture of that school. So when we saw the opportunity to apply, we didn’t hesitate. What a difference it has made.
In 2018/19, for the first year of the grant, we were able to launch a Green Industries course for the first-time (THJ 2O)! This program and the course has provided countless amazing rich learning experiences and opportunities for our students through the grant. One standout opportunity was when our students were able to visit a real working farm in Quebec, just a short drive across the provincial boundary from downtown Ottawa. The farm is called Roots and Shoots. As a teacher it was incredible to see the students (some of whom didn’t know how a carrot was grown) harvesting beets, playing with the chickens and experiencing farm “life” for a day. Shortly after, we visited a working apple orchard where we learned about the complexities of apple growing (it’s not easy!) and we checked out Canada’s Agriculture Museum and working farm in the middle of the city. Our students learned so much through these field trips that could never have been conveyed in a classroom.
Another incredible opportunity was that the grant allowed us to bring in Chef Anna from Cultivating Cooks. Over the course of a few workshops held at our school, Chef Anna led our students through the process of making inexpensive, easy, healthy, plant-based meals that students could replicate on their own. The workshop series was a huge hit and our students still request the Green Goddess veggie dip she made with us as well as the taco salads! We are looking forward to bringing back the workshop series in 2020.
In addition to the workshops and field trips, the grant has helped bolster our ability to grow and store food at school year-round. We purchased a refrigerator that provides cold storage, we have three Tower Gardens and plan to get more (our goal is one in every classroom!) and we plan to repurpose old media carts that once held tube TVs and VCRs as multi-tiered UV light growing systems for microgreens, herbs and seed starts. We’ve already purchased 10 sets of UV lights and have a working proto-type that was built in the first year of the grant. We plan to work with community organizations to get microgreens into local food banks.
Lastly, we have been so grateful to be able to host free monthly salad bars for our students since the time that we received the grant. Our students come from a very diverse range of socio-economic backgrounds and many cannot afford fresh food at home. So having the salad bars has been a huge success in bringing our students together and showing them how they can eat well and support local food systems. We’ve had potato salad using potatoes from our own school garden, carrots, onions and beets from our farm partner, Roots and Shoots, apples baked into apple crisps in the fall and so much more!
The staff have loved being able to watch the school culture around food shift and see our students make better food choices.
We’re excited to see what the future has in store for Elizabeth Wynwood.
Article originally published here.