First of all, we need to come clean about the fact that we haven’t done THE priority identified for our Farm to School BC grant- a commercial dishwasher. Nevertheless, 2016 has been a year of great success! How can that be? Well, we didn’t need a dishwasher after all; what we needed was relationship-building and Renate.
Last year when we applied, we knew we wanted to increase the use of local produce in Foods classes and concession and replace prepackaged high salt/high fat products with healthier options. We’d heard of schools using canning jars to prepare soups and thought we needed commercial dishwasher to change the menu, improve food safety and move toward zero waste.
We hit some snags. The School District Facilities Plan identified the school for conversion to an elementary school, downgrading of the concession and removing the Foods room. Not the best time to install a dishwasher. As we waited for word on the school’s future, we kept the dishwasher grant in the bank. Our coordinator, Lynn, was moved to another school. Time to review priorities and build new relationships.
So, what are the accomplishments that make us proud?
On any day at Lake Trail School students are out in the garden – with a teacher or volunteer tending the seeds and starts they’ve grown themselves. Math students are measuring how much plastic is needed to refurbish the hoop covers. Some are practising the names of herbs in French or trying radishes straight from the soil for the first time. Students made mint, parsley and lemon balm bouquets for Mother’s Day and harvest mint for tea-time in Foods Class. The Art Class is planting pumpkins to carve next year. Shop students monitor the mason bees laying eggs in the boxes they built. Other students are just enjoying lunch and checking for the first strawberries and peas.
Inside, the garden plays a big role in Foods lesson plans. Last fall, students roasted our sweet dumpling squash with maple syrup. Tomatoes and herbs are used for flat breads, rhubarb pie was the feature last week. We planted cauliflower, purple sprouting broccoli and garlic last fall; we’ve enjoyed the cauliflower and broccoli for weeks, and are looking forward to our garlic. Students enjoy the salad bar: this week’s taco salad included kale, spinach and orach from the garden.
The Breakfast program offers fruit french toast and smoothies with fruit and greens from the garden. Veggies are plated with the sloppy joes, pasta or pizza slices. Home-made burritos or taco salads have replaced the heat-and-serve chimichangas.
We originally thought we needed the dishwasher to have mason jars to serve better soup. But we never actually tried to make that soup – who had the time or skills? Then LUSH VALLEY, our Food Security Hub, offered a cook to make a soup or hot meal once a week. Wachiay Friendship Centre covered food costs.
So Renate came to us, bringing a passion for nutritious food, a knack for sourcing deals from local butchers and farms and the capacity to charm students into getting on board with healthy food. Salad volunteers connected as they prepped while Renate taught an after-school Young Chefs class. Concession staff got to know her, working side-by-side while she made two or three meals to be on hand to serve another day. When we shared our concerns about the Kimchi soups with 75% salt RDA, Renate got to work and tested making a nutritious broth in limited time that could be conveniently prepared by staff. A little trial and error and student feedback resulted in the decision to take the packaged soup out of the concession.
Renate isn’t the only person making a difference of course. Having enough volunteers means time to check markets, harvest from the garden and prep for concession use. Staff are getting into the garden more to learn what’s ready. Liaison with teachers is enhanced by Diana, a retired teacher with special education and school garden experience. She supports seed-starting in class, takes small groups out to the garden and increases communication flow. Students spend more time in the garden, building their knowledge and investment.
Our Garden and Healthy Food programs are coming together. The dishwasher will be installed this summer to improve food safety and reduce waste. The Concession, Food Class, Salad volunteers, Garden teaching and the Garden coordinator are interacting more, sharing ideas and working out how to plan, grow, harvest and serve more healthy food. We are engaging the students in menu planning, harvesting and composting. We coordinate to integrate the harvest, purchase and prep so that there can be fresh healthy food at every meal.
In other words, we are Growing Together!