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Connecting student nutrition to locally-grown food

in Education/Health by

An initiative is taking root in the City of Kawartha Lakes to help students who use nutrition programs at school reap the rewards of eating local foods.

For more than a year, Food For Kids City of Kawartha Lakes has been working to create a ‘Local Food Initiative’ to benefit Student Nutrition Programs (SNPs). The idea is to increase the amount of fresh, healthy food grown/raised within a 100-kilometre radius of Kawartha Lakes that is available to SNPs.

Through funding for the initiative, local food items are being purchased at a lower cost, delivered to Kawartha Lakes Food Source, and then distributed to schools at no additional charge. In some cases, local growers have also donated food to increase the supply available to students.

Locally-grown apples are among the first items being distributed through the Local Food Initiative. The initiative is proving popular, with more than four out of five schools in Kawartha Lakes taking part in it. Food For Kids is also considering a fundraising campaign to expand the Local Food Initiative to include more foods and farmers.

“We’re really pleased at how CKL schools and local farmers/producers are embracing the Local Food Initiative and working together to achieve success,” says Jen Armitage, the Community Student Nutrition Coordinator with Food For Kids CKL. “Eating local benefits all of us, is good for our community and is great for the environment. That is why we would love to see the initiative expanded even further.”

In general, local food tends to be fresher, more flavourful and full of nutrients, and doesn’t need to travel great distances to get here, adds Aisha Malik, a Registered Dietitian with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit. “Eating local food also supports farmers in our community, while helping students make connections as to the origin of the food they eat,” notes Malik, who is Food For Kids chair.

“We’re pleased to be able to support Food For Kids in the delivery and distribution of local food to local students,” adds Heather Kirby, General Manager with Kawartha Lakes Food Source. “Many schools already use Food Source for their student nutrition programs, so being able to add in extra local food items into a school’s regular food order is great to do.”

Food for Kids CKL supports Student Nutrition Programs, which are provided at every school in Kawartha Lakes. SNPs consist of a full sit-down breakfast before school starts, a grab-and-go program, or ones where snack bins are delivered to each classroom. In whatever form they take, SNPs are free, voluntary, and provide food to thousands of students every day to ensure they have the fuel they need to learn in class.

Kawartha Lakes students come to school hungry for many reasons, not just poverty, Armitage notes. “Long bus rides to school, early morning practices and rehearsals, hurried morning routines in which students do not eat breakfast, and children not being hungry before school can all be factors,” she says.

To support or learn more about the Local Food Initiative, visit Food For Kids CKL (www.foodforkidsckl.ca) online.

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Roderick Benns is the publisher of The Lindsay Advocate. He is the author of 'Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World,' and is also Vice Chair of the Ontario Basic Income Network. An award-winning author and journalist who grew up in Lindsay, Roderick has interviewed former Prime Ministers of Canada, Senators, and Mayors across Canada. He also wrote and published a series of books for youth about Canada's Prime Ministers as teens.

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