Farm to School brings fresh, locally grown produce into Catholic elementary schools in Halton. 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 foods in the fall of each school year and are provided with menu ideas and healthy eating curriculum supports.
Launched on a pilot basis, the program initially had a modest goal: increasing the proportion of locally grown vegetables and fruit within an existing student nutrition program in one school by five per cent. With the help of Halton Food For Thought (HFFT), that goal was achieved early in 2008 at the pilot school, St. John Catholic Elementary School in Burlington. The program was rolled out to include five Halton schools in 2009-2010 and then expanded to 10 schools in 2010-2011.
According to Lorna Wilson, Halton Farm to School Coordinator, buying and enjoying locally-grown produce offers plenty of benefits including:
- Students consume healthier foods including locally grown fruit and vegetables;
- Increased student knowledge of the role they play in the food system; and
- A more self-reliant food economy that happens when we link farmers, consumers and communities together to support and promote the local agricultural economy.
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. The number one benefit is that it tastes better!”
The response from students, parents and teachers has been overwhelmingly positive. As one parent commented, “Excellent program, both to increase fruit and vegetables eaten by kids and to promote local farms.”
As an extension of Farm to School, Halton Food for Thought is now working on a school garden project to encourage schools to develop an edible garden where they can grow vegetables, eat and learn. In addition to Farm to School, HFFT offers several program types for schools to deliver food to their students. These programs, from in-class snacks, full breakfast programs, front hallway grab and go stations, emergency lunches and a healthy basket program, are universal and all students are encouraged to participate.
In addition, On March 2, 2012, St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School in Oakville, along with six other schools, proudly took part in the Live Free Campaign in support of Halton Food for Thought. The Live Free Campaign challenged one to live free of something he or she takes for granted for one day, and in doing so would “live free for those that live without.” Please click here to read more about this great campaign and the involvement of students at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School.