Bringing the Seasonal Harvest to Schools
Ottawa Network for Education and Canadian Organic Growers
It’s mid-morning at D. A. Moodie Intermediate School in Nepean, and students are lining up at a table filled with plates of fresh vegetables, fruits, hearty salads and dips. Their daily snack comes courtesy of the Ottawa Network for Education’s School Breakfast Program. What’s new this year is that the healthy selection includes cucumbers, carrots and other organic produce from local farmers Roshan and Tim Aubin.
The Seasonal Harvest Program is a collaboration between the Ottawa School Breakfast Program and the Growing Up Organic program at Canadian Organic Growers Ottawa-St. Lawrence-Outaouais. Seasonal Harvest connects schools with local farms that deliver organic produce for the breakfast programs in May and June, and again in September and October. The intention is to increase kids’ access to healthy food. It’s also to expand students’ knowledge about organic food and help them make wise food choices.
“They start thinking about where they’re buying their food and become more excited about eating fruits and vegetables outside of school,” says Alissa Campbell, project coordinator at Growing Up Organic. “Getting them engaged in their food decisions is the primary objective, so that when they’re passing by that plate, it’s a conscious decision to take those vegetables because they know where they came from.”
The program also supports local, organic food production by serving as a model for schools to purchase produce directly from farms, as a supplement to what they buy from grocery stores. “To see that you can have this personal relationship with a farmer and get a box every week — I think just the fact that now these schools know that they can do that is a huge benefit,” says Campbell.
Carolyn Hunter, director of the Ottawa School Breakfast Program, explains that the Seasonal Harvest Program introduces kids to different and sometimes unfamiliar, yet nutritious, foods. Some of the students get involved in the selection and preparation of the snack. “They’re really excited to try different things,” says Hunter. “They love learning how to do things, and then they take those ideas home.”
As for vegetables at breakfast, Hunter says, “Kids love them. Kids eat things that taste good.”
The Seasonal Harvest Program is a threeyear pilot project funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Last fall, the program launched in three Ottawa schools: Connaught Public School, Bells Corners Public School and D. A. Moodie Intermediate, with produce from Aubin Farm and Riverglen Biodynamic Farm. This year, it will expand to additional schools, and will include both student field trips to farms and farmer visits to classrooms.
“Once you go out to the farm and you’re pulling up the carrots yourself, as soon as you do that there’s no way you’re going to pass by the carrot on the plate at the breakfast program,” says Campbell.
Canadian Organic Growers
Seasonal Harvest Program
Ottawa Network for Education
School Breakfast Program