The first-ever pan-Canadian school food conference, Changing the Menu, opened a month ago with a picture of Canada’s School Food Map showing over 700 activities underway involving nearly 700,000 students across the country!
Over 250 schools and daycares in Quebec are developing projects to bring more healthy, local and sustainable food to over 418,000 children. Activities include starting a garden or greenhouse, sourcing local food and providing activities involving local food.
Mapping the change
Over the last few years, this movement to bring more healthy local food into schools in Quebec and Canada has grown stronger and stronger. To show the scope of the movement and shine a spotlight on the activities, The Farm to Cafeteria Canada network’s members and partners, including Équiterre, called on everyone to put their projects on a map. The goal was to provide an overview of the activities underway, which include greenhouses, teaching gardens, food and cooking workshops, healthy local and sustainable food procurement policies and composting projects in public and private educational institutions, from preschools to universities.
A survey was sent to a large number of organizations and networks in Canada, and responses were received directly from schools, as well as NGOs working with various schools. The number of responses is low considering the size of the country, but encouraging for such a short period of time: over 693 schools working to bring healthy, local and sustainable food to over 678,000 students, and specifically, 87 daycares and preschools, 285 elementary schools, 128 high schools, 10 after-school projects and 17 universities. Nearly half have teaching gardens and about 35% serve local food.
The figures may seem small, but they’re only the tip of the iceberg. Some projects have just not found their way onto the map yet. In British Columbia alone, over 1,500 schools offer local fresh fruit and vegetable snacks to students once a week in season, thanks to a program coordinated by the BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation. In Ontario, over 1,400 schools take part in a fundraising program that brings them fresh food from local producers, a project coordinated by Dietitians of Canada. The Breakfast Club of Canada supports programs providing universal access to healthy food in more than 1,500 schools across the country.
Check out these 700 projects, ideas and success stories, and if you know about a project in a school or daycare near you, put in on the map! The National Farm to School Network in the U.S. started out small, too. In 1997, you could count the number schools in the network on your fingers. Today, over 40,000 educational institutions numbering 23 million students are registered. We can get there, one step at a time! Let’s be part of the change!