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In New Denver, we built our school garden in 2008, in partnership with the preschool, with the help of a playground improvement grant. Staff, student and parents were involved in the design and building of the garden which soon became a lovely centre piece at our school where students eat, play and learn and then the 30”x 32”greenhouse which was built a few years later. We established a program running through the spring and fall to help students connect with and learn from the garden. We celebrate the garden and greenhouse as a whole school and community every fall at our Harvest Festival, curricular and after school garden programs and now, thanks to the Farm to School grant, continue through the winter with a wonderful Farm to Table lunch and breakfast program.
Lucerne School and SD10 has formed a partnership with the Healthy Community Society of the North Slocan Valley to help fundraise and deliver these programs. Our Parent Advisory Council is also very supportive. We have been generously supported by the local United Church which encouraged us to make storage space for the Community Food Hamper Program at our school. All of these partnerships have been quite smooth and valuable to community building.
Our healthy school lunches and breakfasts have been really well received by students, staff, parents and school visitors, providing four nutritious, affordable meals a week one of which is cooked by students. Our staff noticed a difference in student behaviour and focus right away when our lunch program began. As our social studies/outdoor education teacher put it,
“The lunch and breakfast program has resulted in several crucial benefits to our school. First, students eating meals together brings a sense of community and equality that benefits student relationships to each other and to the greater school community. Second, students receive much better nutrition, which has increased the ability of students to focus, learn, and self-regulate behaviour, especially in the classes following lunch. Finally, the meal program has increased the sense of belonging students feel toward their school and community, which helps students with self-confidence and the ability to persevere in challenging situations.”
Our Café Connections class prepares lunch for the school and staff once a week and has learned about everything from saving seeds and preserving foods to sowing and tending plants and Food Safe handling and serving of foods.
Last year we used our own compost and saved seeds to grow 218 lbs of tomatoes which we froze, dried, and sold thru the summer and fall. As well as a good crop of peppers, basil and spring and fall greens. We are committed to creating menus from as much locally produced food as possible and in so doing, were able to support five local/regional farmers and also create a clear link to our school garden and greenhouse as students proudly serve the produce they have seeded, nurtured and harvested.
Composting is always a big part of our daily program as all the school waste and the garden clippings and some manure are layered to decompose into fresh soil for the next year. We are one of the only programs in B.C. that is really creating this full cycle of organic waste for students to learn from. This year our compost was so full of red wigglers that we were able to create a worm composter with the kindergarteners for their class which they feed daily. Our school won a B.C. wide competition for innovation in environmental practice two years ago. Last year’s average daily waste at Lucerne was 3kg garbage, 5.4kg recycling and 6.7kg compost.
Currently about one half of our student body enjoys our lunch program on a regular basis but the percentage is growing. It takes time for students to change their eating habits but those that have particularly enjoy the salad bar.
One challenge we experience in our area is living with bears. So as not to attract bears to our school yard, we compost all our food waste in large barrels using a fermented wheat bran product called bokashi. It decomposes anaerobically in the barrels until it can safely be mixed into our outdoor compost piles. Even then, when grizzlies were in the area last fall, we electrified the compost piles and then protected the students with another layer of snow fencing!