Farm to School Without Borders: Canada’s Farm to School Story
The Canadian Context
Founded in 2011, Farm to Cafeteria Canada (F2CC) is a pan-Canadian organization that was formed to work with partners across Canada to educate, build capacity, strengthen partnerships, and influence policy to bring local, healthy, and sustainable foods into all public institutions.
Across Canada we’re seeing and celebrating so much exciting activity to bring the local harvest into school classrooms and cafeterias. Just like in the US, farm to school in Canada is about closing the distance between field and fork and cultivating a generation of healthy eaters and critical thinkers who understand and value food and its role in personal, cultural, and planetary health.
Some communities use the term Local Food to School (LF2S), where “local food” can include seafood, game and other “wild” foods, that connect schools with fishers, elders and other knowledge keepers who can harvest and prepare these foods safely and in a culturally meaningful manner. Check out this short video to see LF2S in action in a remote Indigenous community.
Inspired by the US National Farm to School Network, the Canadian farm to school network championed by F2CC is over 5,000 members/followers strong, with representatives from nearly every province and territory. To date, 1,219 schools and campuses have shared their farm to school activity with F2CC so that it can be tracked on the Canadian Farm to School Map. Institutes report they are providing 864,579 students (about 10% of the national youth population, ages 5-24) with an opportunity to experience growing, harvesting, preparing and eating healthy local foods at school. We know there is much more grassroots activity happening and expect this number to grow as more become aware of the map. We’re also learning from the US and hoping to get farm to school questions embedded into our agricultural census.
Farm to school has drawn the eye and support of the Canadian government. Since 2016, the federal government has partnered with F2CC, investing nearly $2 million in a pan-Canadian farm to school initiative - F2S: Canada Digs In! (F2SDCI). Federal funding has been matched by multiple partners, including Whole Kids Foundation. Thus far F2SCDI has enabled the development of pilot programs in nearly 100 schools, affording more than 35,000 students to experience farm to school. (Read / watch some of their stories here.) This project is significant in that it represents the largest ever federal investment in school food to date, and for the first time ever it has allowed us to evaluate the impacts of farm to school in Canada!
We’re working to paint a new chapter!
As an interesting bit of context about Canada - many schools - especially at the elementary and middle school level - do not have cafeterias, and often lack cooking facilities of any sort. Instead, farm to school program are creative and unique to each and every school, often championed by dedicated teachers, school administrators and parent/community volunteers. Our work at F2CC is building on the amazing efforts of schools and communities at the grassroots level by evaluating and supporting schools to implement best practices in farm to school.
To do this, F2CC has been developing a Canadian farm to school framework and articulating the farm to school approach, within which there are multiple models.
F2CC is not alone in our quest to paint a strong future for school food in Canada. There are many provincial and national groups with brush in hand. The Coalition for Healthy School Food representing more than 80 organizations, is advocating for a federal investment in a national school food program that would eventually ensure that all students have access to a healthy meal or snack at school every day. Many farm to school champions are at that table influencing the development of a set of strong principles that align with those underpinning the farm to school approach (including the need for such a program to be universal, community-driven, and include conflict of interest standards). In addition to ensuring that students can access a meal so that they are ready to learn at school, farm to school champions seek a program that closes the distance between students, their food, and their land while supporting the sustainability of regional food systems.
Our vision? Every child has an opportunity to experience the joy of farm to school! The momentum is building!
Resources of Interest
Farm to Cafeteria Canada has developed a number of resources that may be of interest.
- F2CC’s First National Farm to School Conference was held in May 2019 and brought together over 300 participants from across Canada to celebrate.
- Our Farm to School Food Guide is demonstrates how salad bars can help students eat well and live well using the Canada Food Guide.
- Our Farm to School Learning Circles Guide provides an introduction to the use of Learning Circles as a means of furthering farm to school efforts across Canada.
- Our Benefits of Farm to School: Evidence from Canada Fact Sheet builds on the US National Farm to School Network’s fact sheet to share the impacts of farm to school activities that we’ve seen in Canada.
- Our 2017 New Brunswick Farm to School Guide was designed to support school communities and the local food supply sector in their efforts to advance Farm to School.
Farm to School Month!
And how are we celebrating Farm to School Month? Our theme in Canada this year is Healthy People Healthy Planet. To help our schools celebrate we’ve launched a Zero Food Waste Challenge. Visit our Farm to School Month website to check it out!
Top photo: A student at Kinkora Regional High School, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Photo Credit: Amanda Kingman