Vancouver Area Farm to School Hub – Community Animator Winter Blog Post

Winter’s upon us! As the seasons change, so do the types Farm to School activities taking place in the Vancouver Area; but the winter chill isn’t slowing anyone down. While schools may be putting their gardens to bed, hands-on learning through food production and preparation happens year-round.

Experiential hands-on learning is an important element of Farm to School. Hands-on learning happens in the school garden, kitchen, at local farms and in the community, and is integral to fostering food literacy. According to nutritionist Helen Vidgen, food literacy is 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 the scaffolding that empowers individuals, households, communities or nations to protect diet quality through change and support dietary resilience over time”. Whether it’s getting their hands into the soil; massaging kale; or serving and eating food with others, students across the Vancouver Region are engaging with their food systems in diverse ways and developing valuable food literacy skills.

At Templeton Secondary, students planted an accessible tea garden (photo below) with the help of Nettle Guild permaculturists, and will harvest herbs over the winter months for some warm and soothing teas. The tea garden helps to make the connection of seeing food as medicine — as more than fuel — is an important learning on the pathway to food literacy.

Templeton Tea Garden

Even in the winter months, some things grow in abundance… like kale! At Grandview Elementary, students had a blast making kale chips, testing out different sauces and seasonings including BBQ sauce, sriracha, Dijon mustard, nutritional yeast, a variety of dry spices, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, honey and more (photo below). This hands on cooking lesson gave students an opportunity to experiment with combining different types of flavours and find out  “what works” for themselves.

Grandview students enjoying the experience

Hands-on learning can take many forms. Digging in Deep, a youth Photovoice Project led by public health dietitians from Vancouver Coastal Health, saw sixteen Vancouver secondary school youth exploring their connections to food, gardening, and mental well-being through photos and stories. The Digging in Deep exhibition is being featured at ArtStarts Mezzanine Gallery in Vancouver until February 26, 2017 — go check it out!

Just a few of many photos snapped by Vancouver youth for the Digging in Deep Photovoice project

Monthly F2SVA Network Meetings

Farm to School Vancouver Area (F2SVA) Monthly Network Meetings are up and running! These monthly webinars are open to anyone in the F2SBC network as a way to share information, highlight diverse and inspiring F2S programs, and to provide an opportunity to network with like-minded school community members.

October’s webinar was themed Farm to School in the Curriculum and featured Rosalind Sadowski (Fresh Roots), Lee Green (David Thompson Secondary School), and Nikoo Boroumand (Society Promoting Environmental Conservation). These impressive F2S actors shared their stories and ideas on how to incorporate farming, gardening, and cooking into the new BC curriculum. You can view the October webinar recording on our F2S Youtube channel.

November’s webinar, Farm to School in the Context of Reconciliation, featured Ian Marcuse (Grandview Woodland Food Connection), Lori Snyder (Metis herbalist and educator), and Spirit Lavellee (Outreach Alternate School at Britannia Secondary), who discussed the role that food and food system education can provide to support reconciliation in the classroom. You can view the November webinar recording on our F2S Youtube channel.

Lori Snyder, Metis herbalist and educator, work with students to plant native food and medicine plants outside the Britannia Community Carving Pavilion

Animator Reflection: Samantha Gambling, Vancouver Area F2S Community Animator

This past autumn I gratefully joined the F2S feast as Community Animator and tucked into the bounty of knowledge that exists across the Vancouver Region. I met countless inspiring F2S actors at School District and PAC meetings across the region, as well as BC-wide BC Digs In conference, and had the pleasure of moderating a panel on Children & Youth in the Urban Farming Movement at the Vancouver Urban Farming Society Forum on November 26th.

I also spent time reflecting on challenges and opportunities that have come up in conversation with teachers, community partners, and school district staff, including “How can we maintain our school gardens over the summer?”, “How can we access funds to keep our programs going?”, and “How can we access more local, sustainable foods?”. These are big questions, and it’s going to take many players working simultaneously to see the necessary shifts happen within our school culture and policies. Yet where there are challenges, there are opportunities: student & youth summer employment; planting indigenous perennials around the perimeters of our schools; connecting directly with farmers — the possibilities are endless.

Speaking of new opportunities, the F2S Vancouver Area Region Hub is now partnering with the Vancouver Winter Farmers Market! Once a month at the Nat Bailey Stadium (starting in January), you’ll find Farm to School and a featured school at the Donation Station, sharing their F2S story and accepting both cash and produce donations to put towards cooking and preserving programs in schools. Teachers and school food coordinators across the F2SVA Regional Hub are invited to apply for this opportunity — if you’re interested, please email