Processed meals, food that travels 2,500 km before arriving on our plates... Douce Labelle wanted better for her children at their school and daycare centre. She decided to get involved in promoting healthy food options in her children's schools in St-Denis-sur-Richelieu, in the Montérégie region.
That's how the community gardens began in her area. Over the years, these educational gardens have inspired new initiatives at the schools: healthy snacks and a salad bar sourced in part from the gardens!
"After seeing the film Demain, we decided to create a non-profit to educate and to facilitate environmental projects that bring together residents from surrounding villages," states Douce, mother of Marianne and Clément.
"From our brainstorming sessions came the promising idea of creating teaching gardens. I approached the school and they were on board right away. I then approached various people—a farmer who had some wooden boxes that he could donate, an excavator who brought his tractor and some beautiful soil, the local hardware store, which provided us with free compost and tools, an organic vegetable grower from our town who gave us some vegetable plants and herbs, volunteers who who were ready to get their hands dirty, and teachers who began doing workshops with the children (seeding, planting, cooking, etc.)," explains Douce.
"Our entire community rallied around this collective project; it was magical and very inspiring! We set up three vegetable gardens in planters: one at the daycare centre, one at the elementary school and one near our history museum, the Maison Nationale des Patriotes. We also set up a garden with nothing but heritage plants, fruits and vegetables, so that our children and visitors would see what our ancestors' vegetable gardens were like. It was a great community success," she adds.
It is within the framework of the initiative known as Farm to School: Canada Digs In! (for which Équiterre is the regional coordinator in Quebec) that projects such as these have been developed over the years.
Farm to School
Farm to School: Canada Digs In! is a five-year-old Canada-wide initiative dedicated to providing students with healthy, local, and environmentally responsible food in their food services, and to raising awareness about the importance of agriculture and healthy eating.
The initiative has led to the introduction of the Farm to School Canada Grants, which provide resources to over 133 schools across the country, enabling them to establish salad bars stocked with healthy, local and sustainable food, while also providing students with hands-on learning about food at school and in their communities.
Équiterre, in partnership with Whole Kids Foundation and Farm to Cafeteria Canada, is pleased to announce that the fourth edition of the Farm to School Grant Program will open on November 8, 2022. Stay tuned for full details and to register your school!
Parents… over to you!
Whether you want to set up schoolyard gardening activities, cooking workshops or salad bars at your children's school, there are many tools available to help get you started!
>> Have a look at the Implementation Guide <<
The theme of Farm to School Month this October: earth-focused learning, activities based on relationships between our own lives, our health and the planet.
Are you part of a parent committee that wishes to encourage healthy eating? Contact your children's elementary or high schools to share your ideas!