The Kitchen – a work in progress!

The kitchen – triple sink! (And a hint of where the industrial dishwasher will go.)

Everything we could possibly need. The window at the back slides up, opening into the multipurpose room.

The window on the left opens up into one of the school’s hallway, about 40 feet from the door to the outside.

High school students are different, we were told. They don’t want a salad bar program. They are quite happy to free range at lunch to the local strip mall for pizza, McDonald’s and Starbucks. Turns out that’s wrong. Our survey revealed that 63% of the school’s 1000 students would support a salad bar program, along with 95% of the teachers and staff. Throughout the year, people keep coming up to us asking “When will it start?” It’s been very encouraging and made for an amazing prep year. And we aren’t even up and running yet.

Since the Salad Bar project was first proposed back in September 2017, we hit the ground running. We spent a large part of the year writing grants, organizing our local partners, farms, and suppliers, pricing equipment, and finding the right location inside the school. Many of our volunteers have experience organizing both Salad Bar programs and Hot Lunch programs for elementary schools in the area, so we were able to pull together a solid team to handle our pre-launch agenda. Several teacher volunteers offered ideas to encourage outside spaces for eating, and setting up a pop-up dining room in a multipurpose room. Since that room has a small stage, there’s even been a proposal to have volunteers from the school’s extensive band program to hold their practice during lunch.

The kitchen space already had a triple sink, and a separate hand-washing station, along with an oven and refrigerator. We had the kitchen inspected by our local Environmental Health Officer, and made arrangements for an industrial dishwasher to be installed this summer. We have lined up four local farms as our suppliers, and the head of the local Organic Growers Cooperative as our chief adviser. We have student volunteers from 3 related clubs eager to participate, and the school has connected us to a specific class that will incorporate the Salad Bar program into their curriculum.

The students will be participating in menu selection, farm shopping, budgeting, food preparation, serving and clean-up, on a rotating basis. They will receive school credit, a certificate acknowledging their participation, and a letter of recommendation for a future employer.

Over the summer, we will be consulting with our volunteers, our farmers and our dietician (who manages a Salad Bar program at a local elementary school) to organize our first menus. We will also be setting up the computer software to handle the ordering process and payment options for parents and students. An email will also be drafted to go out at the start of the new school year, which will be accompanied by supportive signage around the school.

Thanks to the funding provided by Farm2School, the Rotary Club of Comox, and a Community Links grant arranged through the school, we have raised the necessary funds and are ready to make the salad bar a reality during the 2018-2019. — Lauren Lan and Tom Mason