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You are what you eat

Program puts students in touch with local food
You are what you eat

by Kyle Wells A new program at James Thomson Elementary School brings students in touch with what they eat by introducing them to food at the source.

Farm to School is a program designed to teach students about food sources, growing food and introduce local, healthy food into their diets. Fresh local fruit and vegetables are brought into the school for a once-

a-month hot lunch that will often also feature local meat, fish and grains when possible. Students become involved in the production of the food they are to eat.

The program started in the late 1990s in California and spread across the United States and into Canada. More than 20 schools in BC take part now. James Thomson is the first school in Powell River to join and this is its first year participating. The Public Health Association of BC organizes the program and is providing some start-up funding.

Francine Ulmer, program coordinator, said that with so many people taking part in local and slow food movements, such as the 50-mile diet, this is a great way to introduce those concepts early on.

“The kids really enjoyed it, it was so amazing,” said Ulmer. “We were really happily surprised how well they received the program...Part of the program is getting kids to really appreciate eating food and slowing down, celebrating coming together and learning more about where their food comes from.”

There is a cultural aspect to the program as well. For the first meal at James Thomson, aboriginal education coordinator Gail Blaney and others from the Tla’Amin (Sliammon) First Nation cooked locally caught salmon for the student lunch in the traditional fashion: hanging from stakes around the fire.

“It seems very suiting to start with James Thomson as the first school to be bringing it in,” said Ulmer, “because we have a rich cultural heritage with the Tla’Amin children and community, as well as Wildwood being an awesome place for farms and gardens.”

James Thomson students also made butter for their first local meal. Ulmer said that getting the students involved with making the meals is part of the project and she said they will be involved in pressing apples for cider and similar tasks. A main component will also be for the students to be involved in growing a garden at James Thomson. This part of the program is in the works, but a rock composter, built by Laurie Chambers, has already been installed on site.

With tables set and flowers as decoration, students sat down to a meal featuring local carrots, cucumbers and peppers, along with the salmon. Organizers also bought some BC grain, milled it themselves and Nancy Bouchard from Nancy’s Bakery in Lund baked bread using the flour and local eggs for the students.

Organizers are renovating the kitchen at James Thomson to accommodate cooking for all the students. Currently they are doing some of the food preparation at the Italian Hall. They are looking for donations from the community in the form of money or kitchen equipment. Donations of fruit are also accepted. With a full kitchen up and running organizers hope to offer more frequent meals next year.

Anyone looking for more information on the program or who are interested in donating can call Ulmer at 604.414.0154 or visit the program’s Facebook page.