Agassiz Elementary Secondary School is a rural Grade 7-12 school. We currently offer a breakfast and lunch program to students at no cost. Our school does not have a formal Cafeteria; however, we do have a well-equipped home economics lab where meals are prepared. Senior Foods and Culinary Arts students plan, budget, create menus, prepare, serve and clean-up meals for their peers. Our program is an inclusive program, meaning it is open to all students who are hungry and is not based on financial need. As a result, food is a big cultural part of our school community.
In the past, we have had planter box garden systems in the classroom where we grew a variety of herbs and greens to add to the meal program but we had a significant problem with pests, particularly aphids. As well, we also faced the challenge as what happens to the garden boxes during the summer when the majority of our crops were available.
In the Fall of 2017, as a student-led initiative, and cross-curricular project, one of the Grade 10 students, Keaghan Onos, chose to research the possibility of a hydroponic growing system for greens as his Science 10 project. This project was then made possible when we were approved for grant funding from the Public Health Association of BC -Farm to School grant program. Our ultimate goal is to grow lettuce and herbs to supplement our meal program but at a much larger scale than our previous planter boxes.
Fast forward to Winter/Spring of 2018, where the building began in the Senior Wood class. Students were eager to get the project into the classroom and to start growing so the building process went off pretty quickly and teachers were greatly impressed with both the initiative and leadership from Grade 10 student, Keaghan Onos.
The system made its way into the classroom in late April and since its arrival, many students have been to visit and inquired about our growing system. Onos is still working out the quirks with our current lighting and plans to continue experimenting over the summer at his home farm, which happens to be a flower farm.
We have planted two crops of lettuce; romaine and butter and Onos has experimented with light timings to test exactly how much light is too much, and how much is too little. We have not made it to actually using the lettuce product in our meal program as of yet, but Onos has great plans for us come the fall.
Through this project, we have also established a great relationship with our local Environmental Health Officer, who was recently in to teach the students Food Safe. It has been great to have her presence in the school, as many of the students will see her in the community at their local places of work.
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