Capital Region Farm to School Hub – Community Animator Winter Blog Post

snow-photoWinter is upon us –  gardens are heading to bed awaiting the warm days of spring. In the Capital Region, we have one of the most temperate climates in all of Canada. This means that schools are still building student food literacy throughout the winter by growing, sourcing, cooking and eating local food.

This month’s theme for the Farm to School BC Newsletter is Experiential Hands-on Learning Fostering Food Literacy. If you’re looking for a book to read over the winter and want to learn more about food literacy, check out Helen Vidgen’s book on Food Literacy: Key Concepts for Health Education. This book unpacks what food literacy means and how it can be built in schools and everyday life.

Capital Region Farm to School Monthly Online Network Meetings

The Capital Region has hosted two webinars highlighting some of the amazing work happening in our region. Last month’s Capital Region Farm to School webinar featured Laura-Lyn Helton from Colquitz Middle School. If you missed her webinar and want to learn more about that work she is doing click HERE.

November’s Webinar featured Chef Mark Kilner from Gulf Island Secondary School (GISS). GISS is one of our region’s most innovative Farm to School programs. Mark and his students have created a salad food truck that serves the community locally sourced salad and he also has an impressive greenhouse that has an aquaponics system feeding the school greens and fish. Not only is Mark able to sustain his Farm to School program financially, he is also able to generate a small profit to continue to build his school’s local food system. To watch Marks Webinar click HERE.

Story from the Field: W̱SÁNEĆ Secondary

soap-berry-waterBerkeley Lott, grade 7-9 teacher at W̱SÁNEĆ Secondary School located on W̱SÁNEĆ traditional territory, and Fiona Devereaux, Island Health Aboriginal Health Dietitian, received Farm to School BC funding in the spring of 2016. Their Farm to School program set out to engage the grade 8’s in traditional food knowledge. The students get to cook , go hunting, fishing and learn how to use the smoker that was built for the school. Fiona is thrilled to see the youth’s interest in food come to life in the kitchen, “We are connecting to their hearts by engaging their hands and mouths”.

On November 22nd, the smell of baked salmon wafted through the air as students prepared food for their peers and community members, sharing  the work they have been doing over the school year. The PEPÁḴEṈ HÁUTW̱ Feast is an annual event that brings together students and staff of the ȽÁU, WELṈEW̱ Tribal School and W̱SÁNEĆ Secondary in W̱SÁNEĆ territory of the Island. Community members and elders from the W̱SÁNEĆ nation also attend this celebration. Each grade 8 student was in charge of their own tasting station including rosehip jam, oven baked clams, soap berry whip (Indian ice cream) and fir tip tea.

One student in particular, Ryley, who was in charge of the soap berry whip was excited to show off the skills he has been learning over the year. In order to  make soap berry whip you first  must  heat the soap berries in h hot water, then strain the berries out keeping the water. Then it is time to whip up the soap berry infused water with an electric beater, add a bit of honey, and 5 minutes later you have a pink foam dessert -sweet and very tart. Be careful not to have any fat around or the berries won’t whip.  Excited about the process, Ryley went around to community members and elders offering them a taste and explaining the process.

It is incredible to see the leadership, traditional food knowledge and hands on learning being built at  W̱SÁNEĆ Secondary. These students will graduate and move on to become leaders in their communities, stewards of the land, water and sky and revitalizing traditional food systems.

Animator Reflection: Aaren Topley, Capital Region F2S Community Animator

The term food literacy has been steadily emerging in literature, public health policy, and in schools over the past 5 years. We tend to think of food literacy as just hands on skills but it is much more than that. Helen Vidgen sees food literacy as a “collection of inter-related knowledge, skills and behaviours required to plan, manage, select, prepare and eat food to meet needs and determine food intake”. It is an ever growing process that we start from childhood, experiencing our first real taste of food and is built throughout the years from watching our parents cook to learning how to feed ourselves. Food literacy is the “scaffolding that empowers individuals, households, communities or nations to protect diet quality through change and support dietary resilience over time”.  How we connect over meals, sharing stories and good food are fundamental to building health eating habits and social connection.

I look at the teachers, students, admin and parents in the Capital Region who see the benefit of building food literacy in schools. They can see the difference it makes teaching their students hands on learning skills mixed with the opportunity to share the food together. Not only does it prepare these students to live on their own, taking care of themselves, it also strengthens to connections to each other. The power of breaking bread and enjoying a conversation and company can foster stronger mental health and social connection.