Cultivating Health: School Breakfast Programs and Community Gardens

March is Nutrition Month in Canada, prompting reflection on the pivotal role of nutrition in fostering well-being. Within this context, the Plant a Seed & See What Grows’s initiatives, notably school breakfast programs and community gardens, stand as pillars in promoting healthier eating habits among vulnerable communities across British Columbia and Canada.

Understanding the Essence of Nutrition

Nutrition transcends mere sustenance; it underpins health and vitality, impacting weight management, digestion, mental wellness, and disease prevention. Health Canada’s dedicated dietitians spearhead efforts such as Canada’s food guide and nutrition labeling regulations, empowering individuals to make informed dietary choices, thus laying a robust foundation for national health.

The Foundation’s Work

Our organization is steadfast in leveraging school breakfast programs, compassionate care initiatives, community gardens, and seed preservation efforts as strategic investments in the health of future generations. Recognizing the prevalence of food insecurity in Canada, we advocate for equitable access to these programs, addressing immediate hunger while fostering long-term resilience and sustainability.

Mitigating Food Insecurity: The Power of School Breakfast Programs

Food insecurity remains a pressing public health challenge, impacting both adults and children nationwide. To combat this issue, our foundation champions school breakfast programs, delivering essential meals to vulnerable Canadians. By ensuring children have access to nutritious breakfasts, we not only alleviate hunger but also lay the groundwork for improved health outcomes and academic success.

Since 2017, our foundation has allocated $18,000 to support two prominent school breakfast programs, including the Breakfast Club of Canada and the Vancouver Sun’s Adopt a School program. These contributions have made tangible impacts, ensuring that vulnerable children receive the vital nutrition they need to thrive.

Empowering Communities through Community Gardens

Beyond addressing immediate hunger, our organization is committed to fostering long-term community resilience through the establishment of community gardens. These green spaces serve as more than mere plots of land; they represent fertile grounds for cultivating food literacy, ecological awareness, and community empowerment.

A notable example of our work in this domain is our partnership with the SPEC’s School Gardens Program. For nearly a decade, this program has facilitated hands-on garden lessons at Thunderbird Elementary in Vancouver, BC. Situated within a community marked by social housing complexes and food insecurity, this initiative provides invaluable education to students, bridging the gap between seed and table.

Furthermore, our involvement at Carlton Place Youth Centre, ON has yielded impressive results. From planting tomatoes to harvesting potatoes, these young participants have not only cultivated fresh produce but also contributed to their local food bank. By integrating garden-grown ingredients into cooking programs, they’re not just nourishing their bodies but also fostering a sense of self-reliance and resourcefulness.

Many of the Carleton Place Youth Centre’s 500+ child and youth members, aged eight to 18 had never grown any produce from plants and were delighted with the results!

Strengthening Connections through Partnerships

Our partnerships with organizations ranging from local community gardens to national initiatives like Farm to Cafeteria Canada amplify our impact, enabling us to support vibrant, sustainable food systems across the country. Through grants and collaborations, we empower schools and communities to embrace farm-to-table practices, fostering food literacy and community connectedness.

We are pleased to announce our renewed support for the Maple Ridge Intergenerational Community Garden for the years 2023-2024. This community garden serves as a hub for volunteer seniors, teachers, and young students from Eric Langton Elementary School and St. Patrick’s Elementary School to learn and grow together.

“On behalf of the Seniors Network Board of Directors thank you so much for funding the Intergenerational Garden. We are very excited to be launching this new partnership to help ensure the future of the Garden project.” –Heather Treleaven, Executive Director, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Katzie, Seniors Network

L to R: Heather Treleaven, Executive Director, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Katzie, Seniors Network; Margaret Spratt, Garden Coordinator Maple Ridge Intergenerational Community Garden & Holly Reid, community member & volunteer and Regina Nebrida, Programs & Services, Plant a Seed Foundation 

Students at the Intergenerational Garden, BC show off their prized carrots!

Additionally, in collaboration with Farm to School BC, a program of Public Health Association of BC and its local communities, we proudly support five school gardens in British Columbia for the academic year 2023-2024. These schools, including Katzie Elementary, Pinantan Elementary, Eastview Elementary, Cedar Community Secondary, and Mackenzie Secondary School, each receive $3,000 to enhance their school gardens and promote food literacy among students.

L to R: Roanne Whitticase, Grants Coordinator, Farm to School BC; Regina Nebrida, Programs & Services, Plant a Seed Foundation; Marcus Lobb,  Provincial Manager, Farm to School BC; Shannon Turner, Executive Director, Public Health Association of BC & Richard Han,

Director of Community Engagement and Food Systems, Public Health Association of BC

Finally, our new partnership with Farm to Cafeteria Canada will enable us to reach 6 new school gardens in the provinces of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Manitoba for the school year 2024-2025. With this partnership, we have reached a milestone in supporting school and community gardens in all of Canada’s provinces!

The Urgency of Action

As we reflect on the importance of nutrition and the impact of our organization’s initiatives, we must recognize the urgency of action. Every day, countless Canadians grapple with food insecurity, facing barriers to accessing nutritious meals. As we celebrate Nutrition Month, let us not only raise awareness but also take concrete steps to address this pressing issue.

Join us in our mission to nourish communities and promote healthier choices. Your support can make a tangible difference in the lives of vulnerable Canadians. Whether through donations, partnerships, or volunteering, your contributions enable us to continue our vital work in promoting healthy eating habits and building a healthier, more resilient future for all.

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