Vancouver Region Farm to School Hub – Community Animator Fall Blog Post


F2SVA Fall 2017 Blog: Opportunities to Indigenize School Food Systems

Fall is in the air, and our land and waters are transforming. Leaves are turning, chestnuts are falling, and salmon are ending their journeys. In this abundant and rich rainforest ecosystem, there are countless opportunities to engage in our local food cycles and traditional food systems. This blog post will highlight some of the work that is happening around the region to connect youth with Indigenous food systems, and opportunities to expand the integration of traditional food knowledge and Indigenous foodscapes into curricula and classrooms.

Disclaimer: The author of this blog is a settler to unceded Coast Salish territories.


Local inspiration

The Wild Salmon Caravan is an annual celebration of wild salmon as an Indigenous food and cultural and ecological keystone species. Led by Indigenous Matriarchs, this caravan traveled from the unceded territories of the xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations to the unceded territory of the Secwepemc (Shuswap) People at the Adams River. Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples joined together in parades, feasts and traditional ceremonies, to celebrate the spirit of wild salmon and “build capacity to protect, conserve and restore wild salmon and it’s habitat in the Fraser Basin and Salish Seas corridor” (learn more here).  

Youth celebrating the Wile Salmon Caravan in Vancouver (Image: Murray Bush – Flux photo)


Coquitlam’s Suwa’lkh school, in partnership with local First Nations and Fresh Roots Urban Farming Society, is rehabilitating seven acres of forest on school property, currently taken over by invasive species, to create an educational forest garden.


Students and staff working in the Suwa’lkh Indigenous Garden (Image: Suwa’lkh school website)


Are you interested in starting your own native garden or other Indigenous foodscape at your school? Would you like to incorporate First Nations perspective into your classroom by hosting local elders and other community members? Are you looking for workshops or other programs to engage students in traditional food systems? Here are a few local opportunities to begin or expand this process at your school. Please contact Samantha Gambling at with any questions or comments.


Opportunities for Funding

1)    The Indigenous Foodscapes grant is a pilot project funded by the Ministry of Health and City of Vancouver, and administered by Farm to School BC (F2SBC) through Public Health Association of BC (PHABC) to bring native plants and traditional food knowledge into the minds, hearts and bellies of children and youth. Successful school applicants from the City of Vancouver that meet our eligibility criteria will receive grants to both develop or expand a physical Indigenous foodscape on school grounds, and to integrate that foodscape into the curriculum.

A foodscape is a physical space for growing food, as well as a cultural and social space for sharing, preparing, eating and learning about food. This may include native food gardens and forests, plants with cultural and medicinal uses, gathering spaces, outdoor classrooms, and other features. Successful school applicants may choose to build gardens, harvest, prepare and eat traditional foods, connect with elders and knowledge keepers, visit nearby traditional foodscapes, and more.

This grant is available for schools within the City of Vancouver who have interest, readiness and/or capacity for an Indigenous foodscape project, including both a physical space and the integration of that space into their curriculum. Lead applicants must apply in teams of 3 or more (teams may include teachers, administrators, parents and/or other school community members). We welcome inquiries and expressions of interest:


2)    Teachers in SD39 can apply for Aboriginal Education Cultural/Curriculum Project Funding through VSB’s Aboriginal Education Department. This funding aims to provide and support projects for Aboriginal learners that promote academic success, positive self-esteem and cultural awareness in cooperation with educators, families and community members. Schools are limited to one grant per year and applications are not guaranteed; For more information, please email Teddie Wosk at


Classroom & Garden Resources

      Evergreen’s Teachers’ Corner includes valuable lesson plans (such as this “Patterns in Relationships” ethnobotany guide for Grades 4-7). Their Native Plant Resources provide a wealth of information about native plants and invasive species across the country.

      The First Nations Education Steering Committee website holds a large number of resources that support teachers to “incorporate unappropriated First Peoples’ perspectives across the curriculum”.

      The 4Rs Youth Movement is a “youth- driven initiative that was launched to transform the country by creating brave spaces to raise awareness and change the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people”. Seeding Reconciliation on Uneven Ground is a 4Rs framework for cross-cultural dialogue, and a great resource for the classroom.

      The Native Plant Society of British Columbia website features a long list of suppliers across the province.

      Environmental Youth Alliance (EYA) has a Native Plant Nursery program that engages youth in 8-week programs to grow native plants, trees and shrubs, learn about plant propagation and cultivation, seed saving, pollination, drought-resistant gardening, and the role of native plants in healthy ecosystems. The plants are used in ecological restoration projects and distributed through plant give-away events. To inquire about the program or free native plants for your school garden, contact Jess at

Note: Teachers may require approval from school administrators and district grounds staff before planting anything on school grounds. Please check your school district’s garden policy and process before acquiring native plants.


Students working in the Native Plan Nursery. (Image: EYA website). 


Connect with the Community

1)    Vancouver’s forests are a bounty of traditional food plants and medicines. The Stanley Park Ecology Society hosts Indigenous Plant Use walks that can be adapted for high school level student groups. Email inquiries to Dannie Piezas, Environmental Educator:

Educator and Metis herbalist, Lori Snyder guides native plant walks at schools across the Vancouver Area. In the autumn, Lori harvests gingko, rosehips, fennel seeds, dried blackberries, dandelion root, and yellow dock root for teas, salves, and other medicines.

Note: It is important to follow the teachings of the 4Rs when harvesting: respect, reciprocity, relevance and responsibility. We recommend that you request guidance from an experienced community member, and follow best practices (eg. see these and other tips before you harvest). 


2)    The UBC Farm hosts a number of Indigenous initiatives, including the Tu’wusht Garden Project and Culturally Relevant Urban Wellness (CRUW). Contact program coordinators for more information and inquiries about visitation and other engagement opportunities.


The UBC Farm’s Tu’wusht Garden is an inclusive community space with a mission to “improve and promote the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health of individuals, focusing on the Aboriginal community residing in Greater Vancouver”. (Image:  UBC story team)


3)    Vancouver’s First Nations restaurant Salmon n’ Bannock hosts lunches for student groups across the Vancouver area. They often invite local elders to share traditional stories about the meal, and provide other opportunities to learn more about the food. Email for more information.


4)    The Harmony Garden at Humulchs’n, located in X̱wemelch’stn / Squamish Nation Capilano Reserve, is a community garden and outdoor classroom with a large variety of fruits, veggies, native plants and pollinator habitats.

Ethnobotanist, Artist and Indigenous Plant Diva, Cease Wyss leads many Indigenous food plant and medicine projects and holds workshops across the Vancouver Area. In October, Cease shared her knowledge of pollinator plants at Harmony Garden. (Imange: Thanushi Eagalle, Edible Garden Project)


For more information or to share your own Indigenous school food project or event with the community, please email or reach out via our F2SBC Facebook page.