The Farm to School Grant has helped dramatically change the culture of our school. We have been able to use it to leverage and add to the work that Lake Trail Neighbourhood Connections does to support our youth. We serve a very high needs community and being able to bring fresh, local food to the mouths of our children is vital. Lake Trail Neighbourhood Connections is the community-based organization that we partner with on many projects of mutual benefit and the engine behind our Farm to School work. With the grant we received we have been able to increase the nutritional value of the food we serve our students throughout the week, been able to introduce students to local food and produce that is easily accessible, and been able to engage them more in thinking about what they are eating and where it is coming from. As one staff member commented, ‘When I first started at Lake Trail, many moons ago, there was no garden, no volunteers, maybe the odd one here and there, and lunches that were good, but definitely not great or particularly nutritional. Wow! The school, community and volunteers have come a very long way, with a lot of very hard work. The difference in what we bring to the table at lunch is phenomenal. Using all the great greens from the garden (fresh and frozen) in our smoothies year round, a free salad bar to all our students and staff on Wednesdays, healthier meals every day and a great hot breakfast on Fridays is game changing. I have watched the students’ faces light up with anticipation on what they are going to eat today, especially on Wednesdays.” A catalyst for some of this growth and evolution has been the Farm to School Grant, and the benefits go well beyond just our students.
“Being a volunteer with the salad bar and healthy eating programs at Lake Trail School has been one of the most rewarding things I have done. Seeing firsthand the difference it makes for the students to have a free healthy food choice available on a weekly basis is one of the best feelings. I began with the salad bar program in the spring of 2016 and am fortunate to still be able to help out each week. I see a huge change in the choices the students make now, they are willing to try new things and often surprise themselves by liking a new vegetable that they had never even heard of before. One of my favourite times is when I ask a student if they want to try something new and they go for it, I always tell them they don’t HAVE to like it just TRY it – you might find out you love it. It is so worth it when they come back for more! My favourite day of the week is Wednesday when I get to help serve salad and chat with the students and see the long, long line up of smiling faces. The kids are always so excited when we are setting up for service, amazing to see students this age excited about SALAD, so great! The students of Lake Trail are continually polite and grateful for the healthy food they receive I think the programs are a giant win for everyone involved.”
As one parent, who also volunteers said, “I personally think that the Farm to School project is crucial to our school, students, and the community. I grew up in an environment where we lived off the land and sea where our daily lives centred around the dinner table. Seeds were planted, daily fishing and hunting wild animals who lived off the land untainted by chemicals and sprays. Eating live food kept us from the doctor only when we had a broken bone or a sprained ankle. We had healthy bodies and mind. Sickness of all kinds were rare.
“I feel we have moved away from old ways of life and our health and well being of our children are being compromised. With convenience food packaged by factories, mass produced dead food and unethically raising animals filled with chemicals are a part of the cause for mental physical and emotional problems today. As well, with parents working outside of the home and the demands of life today knowing our children are being fed wholesome food at school that promotes healthy minds and bodies takes some of the stress out of our daily lives.”