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Chickens, veggies and composting - part of back to school for many students

Pens, paper and binders are what most people think of as school supplies but what about trowels and gardening gloves?

With assistance from Interior Health’s Community Food Action Initiative many schools are teaching students about producing healthy food and the science behind it by providing opportunities for them to get their hands dirty and develop valuable life long skills.

“For many people fast food and processed food are more readily available and affordable than healthy food. This presents a real concern, as these foods can lead to poor health,” said Heather Deegan, Manager of Interior Health’s Food Security and Community Nutrition program.

“Interior Health, through programs like the Community Food Action Initiative, has joined forces with many schools and communities to change that and the results are very exciting. Students are developing awareness about healthy, locally grown food and they are learning the skills to grow it themselves.”

Kootenay Lake School District hosted a workshop on Edible School Grounds that brought together over 50 people to explore the successes and challenges of school gardens.

A School Garden Network was formed to share information on setting up school gardens, to provide guidelines for operations and maintenance and to share information on funding sources.

Word about their good work is spreading as interest in the network now extends beyond their school district to other Interior schools.

“This has been an exciting initiative that has quickly generated a lot of interest in our communities about healthy food and sustainability,” said Louise Poole, Health Promoting Schools Coordinator with Interior Health. “We look forward to seeing what the future holds as we move forward.”

School food activities do not stop with school gardens but also include programs to deal with organic waste. In West Kelowna’s Glenrosa Middle School, 180 Grade 7 students involved in their school garden program started a composting program for organic waste from the garden and their lunches.

Students, staff and parents worked together to build wildlife-proof composters that are now helping to teach students even more about ecology, sustainability and the environment.

At the Osoyoos Indian Band’s SenPokChin School, Principal Heather Kelleher brought together 100 students from Kindergarten to Grade 3 and local parents to help hatch chicks for the school’s Chicken House Project. The project helped teach students about the life cycle of the chicken and soon these same chickens will be laying eggs for the school’s breakfast and lunch programs.

“This project will have many benefits for our students and our community,” said Kelliher. “It links education to real life while teaching children the vital skills to be self sufficient and produce their own food in the future.

Because it is a school and community project, it also provides us with the opportunity to model these skills for the whole community. ”

The Community Food Action Initiative is a community grant program that encourages communities to use novel approaches to overcome their unique barriers to accessing healthy, safe and nutritious foods. Building the knowledge and skills of students and community members helps encourage healthier food choices, creates healthier communities and reduces chronic disease.

  • For more information on Interior Health’s Healthy Eating Initiatives visit