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'Farm to School' for healthy bodies and minds

At left, Aldergrove Secondary students Amy Whitton and Brandi Sawatzky serve some fresh soup made with locally grown produce at the school cafeteria. Centre photo, Shiho Uzawa of Aldergrove
At left, Aldergrove Secondary students Amy Whitton and Brandi Sawatzky serve some fresh soup made with locally grown produce at the school cafeteria. Centre photo, Shiho Uzawa of Aldergrove's Winset Farms slices and serves up fresh cucumbers and tomatoes from her farm at Aldergrove Secondary's Farm to School lunch program. At right, a make-your-own sub sandwich bar featuring locally grown foods is now part of the daily diet at Aldergrove Secondary's Farm to School lunch program.
— image credit: HARRY HUNT PHOTO

Poor nutrition, bad diets and childhood obesity have become a genuine problem in western societies, but Aldergrove Secondary School has taken the bull by the horns and is fighting back.

The school is the first in the Fraser Valley to launch the Farm to School program that brings fresh homegrown foods into the school cafeteria every school day.

There are over half a dozen "fast food" outlets within walking distance of the school, many of which truck in food from hundreds or thousands of kilometres away. However, there are many more farms within walking distance of the school which are now delivering fresh produce to the school under the new program.

School principal Gord Stewart has been instrumental in bringing the Farm to School initiative here, and has been working on it with Fraser Health, Langley Environmental Partners Society and local farmers over the past nine months.

Farm to School was officially launched on September 20, with a smorgasbord of culinary delights prepared by the students and special guest, Shiho Uzawa of Winset Farms.

Shiho was busily dicing up cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes for the cafeteria while cooking program students prepared tasty sub sandwiches.

It was only the first taste of a program that will offer similar fare every school day. Locally grown produce will appear daily in the prepared foods at the cafeteria kitchen and a make-your-own sub sandwich bar features the same produce as well as buns sourced from a local bakery.

According to statistics only one child in four in grades 7-12 eats the daily recommended servings of vegetables and fruits. This results in poor health outcomes, as adequate servings of these foods would lead to less risk of diabetes, cancers and heart diseases, as well as helps youths to manage their weights.

This simple fact is what has driven Stewart to embrace initiatives that contribute to good health in the classrooms. And healthy bodies result in healthy minds.

The school cafeteria has long been following the Education Ministry's food and beverage guidelines for healthy eating, and participating in the B.C. School fruit and vegetable nutritional program.

Stewart says the school isn't stopping at the Farm to School program, as he has plans for the students becoming involved each semester in growing produce, including herbs for the cafeteria and home economics classes. This will be done in the greenhouse on the school property as well as in the school's plot in the Aldergrove Community Garden in the park adjacent to the school.

"We are fortunate to be surrounded by many local farms and farmers who are working to grow delicious and nutritious produce right in our neighbourhood," said Stewart.

Aldergrove farmers who are interested in participating in the Farm to School program are welcome to contact Stewart at the school, call 604-856-2521.

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