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Farmer’s Box helps feed Shuswap students

School District 83 offers local produce to families at discounted price
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School District 83 has a number of initiatives to address food insecurity, including school food programs and the new Farmer’s Box, which offers local produce to families at a discounted price, with a meat option being added in March. (Black Press photo)

Food insecurity is becoming an increasing problem affecting students, but School District 83 is addressing that with the help of registered dietician Serena Caner.

At the Feb. 20 board meeting, the school food program facilitator provided an update on the initiatives she’s coordinating with provincial funding through the province’s Feeding Futures strategy that is providing $214 million to school districts over three years.

Through that, Caner has introduced centralized ordering and delivery of food that she gets from local grocery stores and some larger suppliers to provide healthy food, taking the burden off individual schools. With the funding, she’s able to offer a greater variety of food options as opposed to the cheaper toast and granola bars that are common staples.

“That’s not the food that they need. So, we really wanted to encourage schools to serve fruit and vegetables and protein,” she told the board. “And those foods are more expensive… but we have money to support nutritious food in schools, so let’s do it.”

In supporting food programs, the government also wants to support local agriculture, and encourages school districts to work towards having 30 per cent of their food bill spent on items from B.C. producers. Caner’s latest initiative, the SD83 Farmer’s Box helps accomplish both of the above goals.

The pilot program has individual boxes of local produce delivered to schools once a month, with families able to purchase them online at www.naturedelivered.ca/pages/sd83. The boxes are $40 but, using a discount code provided by the school principal, SD83 families can get them for only $20. Caner also said that they started the program with just veggies, but will now have local meat boxes available starting in March.

“Because our schools don’t have capacity to feed every student yet, we’d also like to help support families so they can feed their kids,” she explained. “I think most families would prefer that option.”

The new program was well received by the board.

“I think it’s a fabulous program… I’m really excited to hear more about that,” vice chair Corryn Grayston said. “And I know there are many growers here in our district that would be very pleased to support this program in any way, shape or form.”

Other initiatives Caner is continuing to work on are school-wide feasts where foods classes prepare a meal that’s eaten by all students in a common area, and the Soupermeals that come from community partnerships. That includes Shuswap Food Action delivering to 13 schools and five Strong Start programs, the Hub offering hot lunches at Eagle River Secondary in Sicamous and Glad Tidings Church’s Brown Bag Lunches for Armstrong students.

The board received the report for information, and thanked Caner for her extensive work on district food insecurity.

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About the Author: Heather Black

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