OSFN at the ETFO

OSFN at the ETFO

Hey Teachers!

The Ottawa School Food Network was happy to see you at the Be Curious PD Day on Friday, April 27, 2018.

The Future of Food at Sir Guy Carleton Secondary School

The Future of Food at Sir Guy Carleton Secondary School

Making and eating good food has a long history at Sir Guy Carleton Secondary School in Ottawa’s West end. For 35 years, an extensive culinary program has taught students the ins and outs of working in the food industry. From a large industrial kitchen, trained chefs, who have worked in the industry, bring real world skills and knowledge to their teaching. Every student at the school has the opportunity to be exposed to the culinary program during their time at the school. Currently, there are 100 students taking culinary arts with 28 students enrolled in the specialist high skills major program. This program allows students to focus on culinary courses for the duration of their years at the school. Students are prepared to work in the food services industry directly after high school or attend the culinary program at Algonquin College.

A former student, Brad Larabie, manages the cafeteria and breakfast program. These programs allow students hand-on experience in daily food preparation as the food is made and served by the students themselves. The culinary program also caters events inside and outside the school including delicious dinners for local seniors and Ottawa Carleton District School Board of Education meetings.

Alongside food preparation, Sir Guy Carleton students can also learn about growing food. The school’s Green Industries program has been running for 30 years in their heated greenhouse. Six years ago, science teacher Derek Brez and Green Industries teacher Alan Abbey, decided to shift the focus of the program away from growing flowers and other landscaping plants towards growing food. They also took a leap and switched their greenhouse system to an aquaponics system giving their students the chance to learn innovative skills.

Inspired by Stephen Ritz, an innovative teacher in the Bronx, before setting the system up, Alan and Derek attended a 3-day training session in Guelph, Ontario with professionals from all around North America. An Aquaponics system is a combination of aquaculture, fish raising and horticulture. The plants rely on the byproducts of the fish for nutrients while the plants clean the water for the fish. Aquaponics, Derek says, “greatly increased the speed at which veggies are grown” and is “more sustainable because 90% less water is used.

Each year 100 students take Green Industries courses at Sir Guy Carleton and learn about sustainable agriculture. In the greenhouse they grow greens, tomatoes and other vegetables. They also grow incredible basil which is purchased by the Urban Element, a local cooking school for use in their programs. Owner Carley Schelck says there needs to be more and better connections between local businesses and schools. Mutually beneficial partnership, such as this one between Urban Element and Sir Guy Carleton, can have lasting impacts. Not only is the Urban Element able to source freshly grown and hyper local greens and basil throughout the winter, Sir Guy Carleton teachers are able to provide students with real life entrepreneurial skills while bringing in income that is funneled back into the program.

Community collaboration is something in which Sir Guy Carleton excels. The Green Industries Program has collaborated with the Nepean Horticultural Society for plant knowledge, SunTech Greenhouses for their business skill expertise and Algonquin College. Always looking for new opportunities to collaborate, Derek feels that the program is still in the fledgling state and has lots of room to grow. Most recently, Derek and Alan have been working on a possible collaboration with Maple Hill Farm, an urban farm in Ottawa’s Greenbelt, to develop an Indigenous edible plant garden.

This year the Green Industries program made another leap when it began offering an Urban Farming Operations specialist program – a first for the City of Ottawa. A group of students, beginning in 2018, are focusing their high school studies on learning about farming within city limits. Derek is an enthusiastic advocate for sustainable food systems and is eager to introduce the students to the tools and methods of urban farming as an alternative to factory agriculture. The program focuses on front yard edibles, aquaponics, hydroponics and soil based growing. The students will also learn about food security issues with a focus on the importance of local food systems.

Derek and Alan have big dreams. As a Vocational high school, they are willing and able to take more risks than an Academic high school. They are looking for opportunities to expand the Urban Farming Operations specialist program to include Co-op placements with edible landscaping companies and other urban farming entrepreneurs. They are also looking for experts in marketing and promotion of farm products to introduce their students to this aspect of the business of farming. Derek also sees opportunities for the students to work within the community and hopes to connect with elementary schools where his students could “pass on their knowledge” to young children.

Derek thinks that one of the largest benefits of the Urban Farming Operations specialist program is that “the students will come out of the program with skills that other schools do not provide.” This will give the kids a unique career path that will hopefully lead to a future expansion of the urban farming sector in Ottawa.


Story: Allegra Newman

Photos: Allegra Newman

🍎 The Great Big Crunch 🥕

🍎 The Great Big Crunch 🥕

In a mouthwatering *crunch* heard all over Ottawa, 3500 elementary students bit into locally-grown fruits and vegetables on March 1, 2018.

The Great Big Crunch is an annual, Canada-wide event. In Ottawa, it is animated by the Ottawa School Food Network. The goal of the event is to get kids excited about healthy eating and local agriculture. This year, twelve schools from four different school boards were provided with fresh, organic, local snacks sourced from Savour Ottawa Farms like Barkley’s Apple Orchard and Bryson Farms.

Food preferences are set early in a child’s life. We are working with the community to improve access and availability of vegetables and fruits, and to increase children and parents’ knowledge about healthy eating. – Kimberley Steven (Healthy Kids Community Challenge Ottawa)


A Healthy Start at St. George School

A Healthy Start at St. George School

Breakfast club coordinator Siobhan Stewart and her team of committed volunteers start every day feeding 50-80 hungry students at St. George School in Westboro. Breakfast runs from 8:50 -9:15 and is open to anyone in the school. According to Siobhan, what makes breakfast such a success is that it is self-serve. Students can choose what they want and the volunteers help them serve themselves. Nothing is wasted. Hungry students are also able to take baggies of leftovers with them for lunch as some of the kids, Siobhan notes, don’t always bring lunch.

The menu rotates every week. Some days they have cereals, bagels, bread, jam. They also offer yoghurt, milk, cheese, eggs and fruit. Their most popular days are when they make fresh fruit smoothies.

Siobhan says that the support from the Ottawa Network for Education (ONFE)’s School Breakfast Program has been instrumental in keeping the program running. She has benefitted from the Coordinator Training Sessions offered by ONFE, an annual event that brings breakfast program coordinators together to review province-wide program guidelines and learn new tips. At one of these sessions, Siobhan learned from other coordinators that many programs serve fresh vegetables for breakfast. She tried it and was surprised by its popularity.


According to Siobhan, “without our team of parents and community volunteers this program would just not work so seamlessly. They all are fully committed to helping ensure all our students receive a healthy breakfast to start their day ready to learn.”

The breakfast club, Siobhan says, provides a social atmosphere that is safe and welcoming. Kids can sit together in multi-age groupings and eat a nutritional meal. They see volunteers preparing food for the breakfast club and learn about healthy food. Due to its wide catchment,  many kids are bussed to school. When the busses are late, Siobhan says they delay the breakfast program so those students have a chance at a healthy start to their day.

Students at St George School are also learning about growing and eating healthy food through the school tower gardens. The Ontario Network for Education’s Classroom Garden Program provided the school with two tower gardens along with operating instruction and curriculum linked programing ideas. Two student teachers, Stefanie Partridge and Allison Warren lead the program every Wednesday with six rotating students from the two grade 3 classes. The students are directly involved in maintaining the tower, checking the pH and adding nutrients and water. They also reap the benefits of their hard work by harvesting the tower when it is ready and using it to cook a yummy snack for the class. Last year, students made salad and pesto for pasta.


Story: Allegra Newman

Photos: Allison Warren

Planting the Seeds of Healthy Eating at Regina Street Alternative School

Planting the Seeds of Healthy Eating at Regina Street Alternative School

Renuka Darling, a grade four/five teacher at Regina Street Alternative, is passionate about bringing healthy school food to the students at her school.

Renuka’s own inspiration and drive were fueled by a talk she heard from Ottawa teacher Stephen Skoutajan about his own experience with a school garden at Devonshire Community Public School. A presentation by Jen Coorsh from Growing Up Organic at an OCDSB PD day event clinched it. Renuka immediately signed up for all the possible Growing Up Organic garden workshops for that year. Little did she know that other teachers at Regina Alternative were thinking the same way.

In the Spring of 2017, Regina Street Alternative began working with Growing Up Organic to design, build and install a garden with help from students from grades 3-6. Each grade was responsible for planting and taking care of their own garden bed. Through Growing Up Organic’s curriculum linked facilitated workshops, students learned about planning a garden, starting seeds, planting a salad garden and transplanting seedlings. In the Fall, through other workshops, they learn about how to save seeds for next year’s garden and the role of good soil in making a garden productive and healthy.


By June the salad garden at Regina Street Alternative was ready to harvest. The students picked salad greens and edible flowers and made and ate a delicious salad. Many of the students have little exposure to fresh vegetables at home and some were reluctant to try the salad. Others loved it and kept asking for more. Renuka sees the garden as an opportunity to promote healthy eating to students at the school.

In November, with help from the Growing Up Organic Program, Regina Alternative visited Roots and Shoots, a local farm. Growing Up Organic arranged for one grade to go on this trip but there was so much excitement throughout the entire school that a second bus was rented and it turned into a school-wide field trip.

At the farm, students learned all about farming as an occupation including: growing tomatoes and peppers in a greenhouse, extending the growing season, rotating fields and raising chickens. The kids who had been involved in the garden the previous year especially loved the field trip. They saw the link between their school garden and farming.

Back at school, the students took part in a Growing Up Organic seed saving workshop where they harvested nasturtium seeds. They were amazed at how many seeds you could harvest from each plant. One group of students was really impacted and imagined how one little seed could, in the future, become hundreds of plants.

Renuka says that programs like Growing up Organic have such a big impact because they are easy for busy teachers to implement. “Programs need to come without any extra work. With the Growing Up Organic program the teacher only has to choose the dates and Growing Up Organic brings everything.”

Renuka has many ideas for things she would like to do in the future around good food at her school. She says she wanted to “start small and see if everything is manageable.” Now that the garden is underway she has plans to use the garden produce to cook in the classroom and show kids how they can make simple meals. Regina Alternative also has plans to set up a garden tower so the students can grow food all year round. Renuka envisions growing basil and having the students make pesto that they could then take home for dinner to spread the knowledge from the students back to their families.


Regina Alternative teachers value giving their students the skills to grow and cook good food. This spring, Cultivating Cooks, led by Carley Schelck and Anna March, will host a series of inspiring workshops on healthy eating for the students at Regina Alternative. Cultivating Cooks teaches students to make good food choices through hands-on curriculum linked workshops.

Story: Allegra Newman

Photos: Renuka Darling