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It’s Your Turn! Complete the Federal Government’s Questionnaire about a National School Food Policy

By Alexa Pitoulis, Executive Director

If you’re reading this you’ve likely heard the shocking news that Canada is the only G7 without a federally funded universal school food plan and that Canada is ranked 37th of 41 countries on providing healthy food for kids. Fresh Roots, alongside so many other organizations, parents, teachers, grandparents, municipalities have come together through the work of the National Coalition on Healthy School Food and here in British Columbia the BC Chapter of the Coalition. 

Photo credit: Chef TJ Conwi, LunchLAB Lord Roberts

 

Now is the time for you to have your voice heard! The federal government has launched a consultation process for the development of the National School Food Policy. This is the first time in over 60 years that school food policy has been discussed at the federal level. 

 

Everyone can participate by completing the questionnaire by December 16, 2022: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/school-food/consultation-school-food.html

 

Not sure what to say? Or looking for some more info?

  • Check out the Coalition for Healthy School Food’s Guiding Principles.
  • Join the  “Amplifying Our Voices” Workshop to be held on Monday December 12, 2022 between noon and 1pm EST. Hosted by the Coalition for Healthy School Food, this interactive workshop will allow people to complete the form during the session or to complete it by their organization at a later time. Register here.
  • Learn about the evidence and impacts of farm to school. (Reference: Farm to Cafeteria Canada)

For over a decade, Fresh Roots, has been demonstrating through our schoolyard farms and experiential learning programs how a comprehensive, farm to school approach to a national school food policy would have incredible benefits resulting in huge social and economic returns on investment. Thank YOU for being part of this community!

I’m feeling so optimistic about the momentum we currently have towards a federally supported, universal, comprehensive school food policy. Just in the last few weeks I’ve:

  • Participated in 2 National roundtable discussions with the Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, and the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
  • Shared with and learned from colleagues across the province in Victoria at the BC School Food Network Gathering.
  • Read the recent report titled A Universal School Food System for BC put out by The Single Mothers’ Alliance. The research brief shares the perspectives of low-income BC parents on the existing school food programs and builds the case for the universal school food system in British Columbia.
  • Spoke to a 3rd year class at Simon Fraser University about our work and the importance of a new approach to school food in Canada.
  • Spoke to at least two Master’s level researchers who are exploring school-food costing and farm to school related topics of study!

Caption: Alexa digging into a discussion topic with provincial colleagues at the Nov 9th BC School Food Network Gathering in Victoria

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Attention Foodies This Urban Farm Fundraisers Dinner Menu Looks Spectacular

Eat charcoal hummus! Think of the children!

Jul 4, 2022

Vancouver nonprofit Fresh Roots is best known for their farming-focused youth programs—summer camps, in-school workshops and other organized educational activities that encourage kids to get their hands dirty. So you probably wouldn’t expect their fundraiser to include rainbow trout ceviche, wine-macerated figs and burnt onion charcoal hummus.

But the urban farm society’s annual fundraising dinner isn’t made by the kids (there must be some kind of legislation around children and wine-macerating, anyway). It’s done in partnership with local chefs, and this year’s spread includes dishes by Robert Clark and Julian Bond of Organic Ocean, TJ Conwi of Ono Vancouver and Brockton Lane of Sirius Eats food truck. Plus, there’s goods from 33 Acres, Wards Cider, Edna’s Non-Alcoholic Cocktails, Earnest Ice Cream and Kafka’s Coffee. 

Fresh Roots Schoolyard Dinner 2019

A snapshot of the 2019 dinner.

The event, called “Before Sunset,” is on Thursday July 7 from 4:30pm to 7:30pm. Eventbrite tickets are priced from $134 for adults and $28 for children under 12. Here’s the full menu:

Drinks:
33 Acres of Sunshine French Blanchè and Ocean West Coast Pale Ale 
Wards Hard Apple Cider 
Edna’s Paloma and Mojito Cocktails 

From chefs at Organic Ocean: 
Spot Prawn Carpaccio, Hokkaido Scallop Ceviche on cedar planks 

From chef at Sirius Eats food truck: 
Beet Ceviche
(marinated Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) Farm beets and carrot aguachile) 

Sirius Veg Burger
(Oyster and King Farm mushrooms, mini bun) 

Rainbow Trout Ceviche
(chlorophyll aguachile, KPU farm herbs) 

Farmcrest Chicken Slider
(crisp chicken, pickled KPU farm radish)  

From chef at Ono Vancouver: 
Rainbow Trout Roulade (smoked salmon mousse, Haida Gwaii kelp dust, nori, rhubarb wild-berry jelly, bannock crackers) 

On the grazing table: 

Bannock flatbread 

Wine-macerated figs and fruit 

Squid ink soil and burnt onion charcoal hummus 

“Textures of Fresh Roots Farm” veg, and lacto-fermeted veg 

Pickled, roasted and raw KPU Farm veg 

Oyster and King Farms mushroom conserva 

Crackers, olives, vegan charcuterie, cheese and spreads  

For dessert: 

Earnest Ice Cream sandwich  

Kafka’s Coffee Roasting Horchata Cold Brew 

Of course, you can donate to the nonprofit any time of year, but this is an extra-special (and tasty) way to show support. It’s the first time that Fresh Roots has hosted the dinner in-person since 2019, thanks to the COVID pandemic.

The dinner takes place outdoors on the urban farm at David Thompson Secondary, so guests can walk around and see the grounds for themselves. There’s live music from Sam Parton of the Be Good Tanyas and art activities for the youth (and young at heart) too. Get your tickets here. 

https://www.vanmag.com/Attention-Foodies-This-Urban-Farm-Fundraisers-Dinner-Menu-Looks-Spectacular

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Grab Tickets for the Before Sunset Outdoors Dinner

The Fresh Roots ‘Before Sunset’ schoolyard dinner spreads across the fields of David Thompson Secondary schoolyard Thursday, July 7th.

Besides a bunch of fresh, expertly prepared food and drinks, Before Sunset guests will also be invited to enjoy live music, take tours of the on-site farm gardens, and participate in some fun activities. We think that the real thrill, though, is the idea of piling into the David Thompson Secondary schoolyard after all of the students have cleared out for the summer, to spend a few hours connecting with friends and other members of the food-loving community. Scout got a sneak peek of the evening’s dinner spread, and we’re already sold. Check it out for yourself below:

Fresh Roots Before Sunset Menu

33 Acres of Sunshine French Blanchè, and Ocean West Coast Pale Ale
Wards Hard Apple Cider
Edna’s Paloma, and Mojito Cocktails (non-alc)
~

Spot Prawn Carpaccio
Hokkaido Scallop Ceviche on cedar planks

By chefs Rob Clark and Julian Bond | Organic Ocean Seafood
~

Beet Ceviche
marinated Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) Farm beets, and carrot aguachile

Sirius Veg Burger
Oyster and King Farm mushrooms, mini bun

Rainbow Trout Ceviche
chlorophyll aguachile, KPU farm herbs

Farmcrest Chicken Slider
crisp chicken, pickled KPU farm radish

By chef Brockton Lane | Sirius Eats Food Truck
~

Fresh Roots Grazing Table
squid ink soil, and burnt onion charcoal hummus
textures of Fresh Roots Farm veg, and lacto-fermeted veg
pickled, roasted and raw KPU Farm veg
Oyster and King Farms mushroom conserva
bannock flatbread
wine-macerated figs and fruit
crackers, olives, vegan charcuterie, cheese and spreads
Rainbow Trout Roulade
smoked salmon mousse, Haida Gwaii kelp dust, nori, rhubarb wild-berry jelly, bannock crackers

By chef TJ Conwi | Ono Vancouver
~

Earnest Ice Cream Sandwich
Kafka’s Coffee Roasting Horchata Cold Brew

Early Bird tickets, available until June 20th, are $100 per person. For those who have been saving up to splurge, there’s also a $200 VIP option that comes with special perks and a ‘goodie bag’. Regular ticket sales ($125 per person, $25 for kids) are technically open right up until July 6th, but we seriously doubt they’ll last that long… so don’t risk disappointment by putting off securing your spots! Head over here now. Bonus: all funds from the event go towards continuing Fresh Roots’ awesome hands-on farming programs for youth (find out more).

https://scoutmagazine.ca/2022/06/06/grab-tickets-for-the-before-sunset-outdoors-dinner-now/

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Farmer’s Log, Seed Date November 1, 2021

Of course, the day that I need to sit inside and hammer out a blog, the sun decides to shine and the sky is bright blue. At least I don’t have to squeeze into my mud-soaked raingear today, which is the norm this time of year. 

Reading back on last month’s blog, the goals I set for the farm seemed realistic and intuitive. Alas, this is not how things usually go. Piper, Galen and I went out to Delta to lend hands in planting their garlic and clearing out the high tunnel. We had the intention to harvest the seaweed that was washed up on the beach out there but a storm blew it all away. We also had intentions to piggyback on Delta’s compost pile but ran out of time tying ristra peppers from rafters so couldn’t shovel it into the truck. This all translates into later planting and mulching dates, and more days in transit between locations. 

Galen and I did get our garlic planted at Van Tech: 4 X 45 ft beds (not ten, like I imagined) to mature into big heads of Russian Red Garlic. Amendments we used were compost and river sand, sul-po-mag, and blood meal. We mulched with 6 inches of straw and will add seaweed when it washes ashore in Delta again and we have time to harvest it. We messed around with the spacing a little bit but ended up with 3 rows per bed, intermittently planted (laid out in a posts-and-windows pattern) 6-8 inches apart. It’s important to make sure each clove has 3-4 inches in every direction so it has space to expand its roots and get juicy. That means we planted about 1,000 cloves in these four beds. We also installed 3 X 25-ft beds at about 4-inch spacing for green garlic, which is like a delicious, garlic-flavoured leek harvested in the spring. For this purpose, we used the smallest cloves and some bulbils (garlic flower-produced seed). I’m excited to see how they turn out — I’m expecting thin, single-cloved, tender stalks that we will bunch for our CSA in 2022.

Although our markets and CSA are done for the season, we still have brassicas and chicory producing tasty cold-sweetened shoots. Japanese Sweet Potatoes were dug, and about 200 pounds of sunchokes are looking for homes. We are using these veggies to supply special events like the Indigenous Family Gathering at VanTech and to fill the food boxes for the South Van Neighbourhood House food hub. I’m also hustling a bit to get whatever bits and pieces I can into East Van Farm-to-table restaurants like Ugly Dumpling and Dachi Vancouver. If you’re a restaurant nearby and want to purchase veggies from us, get in touch with me!

Fresh Roots’ Field Lead, Piper, has now finished their contract for the season. I am so grateful for the positive vibes and enthusiasm they contributed this season. What a gem of a human that I’m sad to see go. I’m sure they will continue to charm whatever workplace or schoolroom they enter. This also means it’s up to me, sometimes Galen, and hopefully volunteers to finish up winterizing the farm. There are a lot of plants to pull and plastic to cover our fields, so any help from any supporters or *ahem* readers would be cherished. I promise to give you kale!

Now that I’ve enjoyed my hot lunch and written about garlic (was that really all I did in October? Plant Garlic? Time flies), it’s back off to the fields to tear down some trellising and coil up drip lines from our irrigation system. I’m hoping I’ll get a good dose of Vit D with these sun rays. Stay cozy, friends. 

– Farmer Camille

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Farmer’s Log, Start-date, May 1, 2021

A week into April I found myself completely transitioned from working behind a screen to my hands covered in compost, unable to check my messages. It’s awesome. This is why I farm. I love being outside, covered in dirt, with wet, matted hair. Thank Manure it’s finally time to work the soil! We direct seeded about twelve beds at the David Thompson Secondary schoolyard farm, a handful of which are now sprouting. These sprouts are destined to be the first veggies in your CSA box or your June market haul! Time to get excited!

This month, I spent about 2 out of 5 days each week fiddling around with irrigation. This time reminds me once again, how important preparation is for a smooth farm season. When Fresh Roots starts up the growing season, Gray, our Infrastructure Manager, first has to test all the lines and replace any broken bits. Any leaks (or explosive sprays!) need to be repaired before we can hook up the lines that will water our seed babies. Next, we make lists of the parts we need, place an order, and pick them up, sometimes requiring a trip out to Abbotsford. Ideally, we would have a very organized inventory of all the essential, tiny, plastic parts that are dispersed over our many sites. Fresh Roots operates over six sites across the lower mainland (and counting) so this process is a little like herding cats with a broom. 

 

Once we’ve got all our bits and bobs, we need to assemble them according to crop, asking questions like, “do we need overhead or drip irrigation;” “do we need 1, 2, or 3 lines per bed;” “what kind of emitters do we need and what’s their coverage;” etc etc. It’s a little bit like lego, which is kind of fun, but also tedious. Once everything is in working order we finally set the timers… the hardest part. The technology is not user-friendly. It’s like setting an alarm on a water-damaged watch from the ’90s: half-analog, half-digital, with about two dozen impossible-to-find settings buried under complex command chains. TBH, I’m not really sure if these minutiae are interesting to you, Dear Reader, but there you have it – irrigation in all its tiny, explosive glory. 

 

Our seedlings in the greenhouse are now fully irrigated and warm under the clear light shining through fresh panes of glass. It seems like the ideal situation, right? Wrong. Turns out a heavenly courtyard in the middle of a school is also a haven for small animals that like to chew things — namely, about a dozen trays of gorgeous plant babies. I can’t blame the animals. Who doesn’t love a sumptuous spring salad after a winter of garbage… Er, turkey? Our response was to build 6 more cages to protect our precious seedlings from grazing. It also spurred a much-needed deep clean in all the nooks, crannies, and under-the-stairs. The whole team — all departments — banded together to tackle this work and it felt so good to accomplish it together. 

 

Stay tuned next month when I’ll talk about transplants, why we do row covers and the onboarding of our seasonal staff.  

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A SOYL Summer – Part 3

A SOYL Summer- Part 3

As the 2020 SOYL (Sustainable Opportunities for Youth Leadership) program heads into the fifth week of learning and growing together in Delta, Vancouver and Coquitlam we are sharing the third installment in the three-part series written by four SOYL alumni from the summer of 2019. Introducing the third installment of this three-part series:

Written by Stephanie, Maria, Railene, and Sarina, 2019 SOYL Participants

Chapter 4 – Straight Talk

Straight Talk is something a lot of us found extremely important to our SOYL experiences. Straight Talk occurs once a week and it’s where our facilitators give us constructive feedback on how our performance in the program was that week. During Straight Talk, we get two positive things our facilitators saw us doing that week, and we get one thing that we may want to focus a little harder on.  Straight Talk is so important because it gives us another person’s point of view on our growth and participation so it helps us recognize our strengths and help us grow in areas we need to or struggle with. 

 

Chapter 5 –  Farmer’s Market

As we continue learning more about the farm, we also learned how to harvest and process the vegetables. First, we ask one of the farm team staff how to pull out the vegetables properly because you want to make sure if you’re doing it right. Second, we want to make sure that all the vegetables were properly washed because you don’t want any dirt on them. How do we wash our vegetables? Well, the farm team set up a harvest station to wash the vegetables and totes. After all the vegetables are nice and clean we put them in a tote for the farmer’s market. During the market, we learned how to sell our produce that we have locally grown in our schoolyard farms. We also gain customer service skills and share with the customers what is Fresh Roots about or even about the SOYL program. One of the things we sold in the market was our salsa! We spent a whole day in  SOYL making the salsa. In the kitchen one of our facilitators showed us how to cut the vegetables into smaller pieces, after that she showed us how to measure the salsa and how to can them properly.

 

Chapter 6: Leadership

Leadership is written in SOYL’s title. SOYL stands for Sustainable Opportunities for Youth Leadership. During this six-week summer program we crawl out of our shells, have new experiences, and become more confident. Every week a pair of SOYL crew members plan and lead a warm-up game for the morning. The warm-up games taught us how to speak in front of people. It helped us practice speaking clearly in front of lots of people. The fun warm-up games always wake all of us up. Giving and receiving feedback was important and that’s what FLIF is for. FLIF stands for “How do you Feel? What did you Like? What could you Improve? And would you like to receive Feedback?”We love sitting in a circle and appreciating our peers for their amazing work with positive and constructive feedback. Another part of leadership was learning the importance of active listening. In that workshop, we sat in front of our partners listening to them with active expressions. We practiced engaging with people’s conversations with patience, avoiding interrupting topics. SOYL has taught all of us how to be leaders!

Proceeds from the Fresh Roots Fourth Annual Schoolyard Dinner *At Home Edition* fundraiser On Sale Now provide critical funding for Fresh Roots programs, like SOYL, that engage and empower youth more important now than ever!

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Fresh Roots on The Conversation Lab -Co-op Radio Vancouver

Our fearless Interim Executive Director, Alexa Pitoulis, chats about all things Fresh Roots on The Conversation Lab with Don Shafer produced by CFRO FM (Co-op Radio Vancouver). Thanks so much for the opportunity to share a little bit about what we are up to these days and how we adapted our LunchLAB in-school meal program along with our partner Growing Chefs! to offer students and families meals out of school during this uncertain time.
Vancouver Co-op Radio CFRO To learn more or to donate visit www.lunchlab.ca

Listen to “Alexa Pitoulis – Freshroots Urban Farm Society” on Spreaker.

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Fresh Five Week 3: Earth Day!

Earth Day turns 50 this year! Back in 1970, an American politician named Gaylord Nelson wanted to harness the energy of youth activism to bring attention to environmental issues. That year, 20 million Americans (10% of the total population) took part in marches, rallies, and learning sessions, and their collective voices and the connections made from that first Earth Day led to important environmental legislation in the US, including the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts within three years.

Today, Earth Day is a global event that has gone digital! You can learn more and find lots more ideas of how to get involved at earthday.org. And, of course, we have a Fresh Five things you can do to celebrate this beautiful planet we call home.

 Dress Your Veggies

A friend of mine asked people to share what they had way too much of in their pantry that they didn’t know what to do with, and someone said “Nutritional Yeast!” So I just had to share our Fresh Roots Famous Salad Dressing. We use it to make our farm-fresh salads irresistible – we have to cut kids off at 5 plates of kale salad, it’s that good! If you, too, have a supply of nutritional yeast in your pantry and aren’t sure what to do with it other than put it on popcorn, here’s an awesome solution. It’s great on salad, steamed or roasted vegetables, grains, and more.

What does this have to do with Earth Day, you ask? Well, when we make veggies delicious, kids (and parents) will choose to eat more of them. That’s not only good for your body, it’s good for the planet too. Animal agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to climate change globally, so choosing plant-based foods more often reduces your carbon footprint. And if you can get your veggies from a local farmer, or your own garden plot, that’s even better!

Fresh Roots Famous Salad Dressing

 

Learn About Food & Climate

Raising animals isn’t the only part of our food system that’s connected to our warming climate. From farming to processing to packaging to waste, every part of out food system has impacts on the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This interactive learning resource from the Center for Ecoliteracy is a deep dive into the topic for middle and high school students, or anyone curious about the food system. And don’t worry – it’s not all bad news! You’ll discover lots of ways the people are making change for good in their communities and beyond.

Understating Food and Climate Change

 

Discover Backyard Nature

What better way to honor Earth Day than to learn about some of the other living things that make their homes here? Seek is a kid-safe mobile app created by the iNaturalist folks. Just point the app’s camera at a plant, bug, bird, mushroom, or other living things and the app will tell you all about it! Plus, you can earn badges and participate in challenges. There’s no registration required, and all location data collected is obscured to protect privacy. Happy Searching!

Find the Seek App

 

Make Veggie Art

If you have some fruits or veggies that have been in the fridge just a little too long, Veggie Printing is a fun way to repurpose them! Not only is it a good thing to do with that limp celery, potato that’s started growing, or the bits of your veg that aren’t going to make it into soup, it’s also a great way for kids to play with their food. When kids are encouraged to use all their senses to get to explore a carrot or asparagus in a stress-free way, they can develop a greater appreciation for them, which in turn makes them more likely to eat those vegetables. And if you’re wondering what to do with those veggie prints, may I suggest making an Earth Day card or banner to hang in your window?

Veggie Print Activity Guide

Sing Along with Eco Jams

What better way to wrap up a list of ways to honour the Earth than with an Earth-themed concert you can sing and dance along to from the comfort of your living room? As a grad student, I had the privilege to have singer, songwriter, social worker, and educator Joe Reilly join my outdoor school program for an Artist-in-Residence week. He worked with the kids to write songs, and led us all in a concert that was just the best. As his website says, “The core of his message is an invitation to heal our relationships with our selves, with each other, and with the earth.” His songs full of science facts, silliness, so much joy, and a ton of heart. He’s live streaming throughout the week on his Facebook page, or you can check out a recorded live stream here.

Joe Reilly Earth Week Non-Tour

May you love the Earth and all the life she sustains,

Kat

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Farm to School Month? More like School to FARM month!

October is Farm to School month, you say?  October is School to FARM month for Fresh Roots!

This fall, nearly 600 students will come on a field trip to our Vancouver Schoolyard Farms. We know that not every student learns best inside a classroom, and our field trips give students of all ages a chance to get dirty, taste delicious food, participate in the life of the farm, and make lifelong memories. By connecting our programs with BC Curriculum Big Ideas, we support learning in the classroom as well as on our farm.

Read on to see examples of what learning on the farm looks like, and get a taste of a Fresh Roots Field Trip.

Games

Whether growing from a sleepy seed to a juicy fruit like these kindergartners, becoming water trying to squeeze through soil, or buzzing like a bee searching for nectar and pollen, active, imagination-driven games engage kids’ bodies and brains. Plus, we all learn better when we’re having fun!

Storytelling

An apple becomes the globe as we share the story of soil on earth. A picture book shows us how alike we are, even if we seem different at first. We write the story of rain and flowers, like this one. “The raindrop fell on a sad looking sunflower and cheered it up. Now this flower is the prettiest flower of all.”

Farm Work

Kids love the chance to participate in meaningful work, especially when big tools are involved! Farm work, like planting, weeding, mulching, or even just digging, also lets kids take appropriate risks, make choices, and work together as a team to accomplish a goal.

Making Salad

When kids participate in making healthy foods, they eat healthy foods, and when you pull the carrots from the ground yourself, they are all the sweeter. Wanna know our secret for getting kids to eat kale? It’s all in the sauce!

Reflection

When we take the time to think, write, and talk about our experiences on the farm, we help put learning into context, solidify our memories, and create bridges to other experiences.

There’s so much more that happens on a Fresh Roots field trip! Our Vancouver farms host school-year field trips weekdays in September, October, April, May and June. Won’t you join us?