Agriculture blooms at Vancouver schools
The number of students in Vancouver schools who get a hands-on experience in agriculture is “growing,” according to district’s sustainability coordinator Kevin Millsip. (UNIVERSITY OF BC PHOTO)
Tasked with making Vancouver schools more “sustainable,” Kevin Millsip decided that meant every school should have its own vegetable garden where students can be taught the origins of food.
And with about 70% of the city’s schools now home to their own gardens, the Vancouver School Board sustainability coordinator considers his work over the past four years a success.
Much of the produce, he said, is either sold to keep programs running or used in food and cooking classes.
“This stuff has been a very organic process,” Millsip said on Wednesday.
Part of his work involves connecting with organizations such as the city’s Park Board — which has provided 130 fruit-bearing trees to plant at schools — or working with nutritionists from Vancouver Coastal Health to ensure healthy meals are served.
One alternative school, Spectrum, even has its own chicken farm where pupils are taught to harvest eggs and use them to prepare lunch for the rest of the student body.
“Everything is done from scratch, soup and salad, main courses, sandwich and baking,” Spectrum teacher Kevin Hampson said of his students’ work.
Two high schools have taken the “growing” initiative a bit further.
Vancouver Technical and David Thompson, partnering with non-profit group Fresh Roots, have a “farm” about the size of five tennis courts each that teachers can use as outdoor classrooms.
According to school district spokesman Kurt Heinrich, the initiative is primarily funded through public and private grants, and doesn’t directly cost the VSB any money.
The program has even attracted the eyes of the University of B.C., which is in the final stages of a five-year study on the “vulnerability” of food systems by studying VSB students.
“We look at the food as … being part of a cycle of food. Really, that begins with the production — planting and growing — and looking at the processing of food, transportation, distribution, consumption and the disposal of the end product,” UBC project director Alejandro Rojas said.
He said the research recognizes that many youth today are either under- or over-nourished, and the intention is to disseminate his findings through academic publications.