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How Coast students experience the magic of growing their own food

The Sunshine Coast is now one of eight regional Farm to School BC hubs, where students get hands-on learning opportunities to develop food literacy. An after-school presentation in Roberts Creek highlighted the pilot project that began last September.

With a spread of vegetable-laden food, inspired by what school gardens are trying to grow, a few dozen people gathered for a fresh update from the Farm to School BC’s pilot program on the lower Sunshine Coast. 

A pilot program to create a Farm to School BC regional hub on the lower Sunshine Coast began last September at Davis Bay and Roberts Creek Elementary Schools in School District No. 46.

The Public Health Association of BC (PHABC) program's mission “is to bring healthy, local and sustainable food into schools across BC and provide students with hands-on learning opportunities that develop food literacy, all while strengthening the local food system and enhancing school and community connectedness.”

With the latest program offering, the Sunshine Coast became the newest of eight regional hubs in B.C. Ten of the 11 local elementary schools have gardens, some of which got their start more than a decade ago and have since helped provide student lunches and food for food banks. Two high schools — Chatelech and Elphinstone Secondary Schools — also grow plants in their outdoor spaces.

Since the pilot program began in 2021, with funding from the Sunshine Coast Foundation, a baseline survey assessed how food literacy was being taught in classrooms, Farm to Cafeteria Canada partnered to evaluate framework, expansion potential and sharing with communities.

At the May 31 presentation at Roberts Creek Elementary School, Naomi Flecshhut also announced new funding from the Sunshine Coast Foundation, and PHABC agreed to match the funding going forward.

One need highlighted is maintaining care for the gardens over summer break, and developing volunteer programs. A summary report of the pilot project is being prepared. Flecshhut said they hope to bring more support to the pilot schools and other community schools, and engage more farmers and food producers, fishers, and knowledge keepers for hands-on learning.

Outside, the Roberts Creek Legacy Garden now has most of its infrastructure in place, and planting will begin in the fall. As she described how the garden space has been built to last, Sheila Wilson became emotional. 

For students, “tasting food they’ve grown themselves is magic,” Vanessa Sparrow of the Powell River School District 47 told the group via Zoom.