School garden at Ecole Mission Central Elementary
Submitted by Heather Anderson, MSc, RD, Public Health Dietitian and Janice Walsh, RN, Public Health Nurse

Mission students are eating healthier and learning food and nutrition knowledge, thanks to the Central Community Garden.

At École Mission Central Elementary, gardening grew of a vision by parents to turn the vacant lot next to the school into something that would build community. Their vision turned into reality when the Central Community Garden was built in 2016. The community garden includes plots for both the school and community members, in addition to a tasting box, seasonal and perennial plants, fruit trees, wild flowers, Mason bees and a sand box. Through learning how food grows and tasting the produce, the community garden contributes to students’ food literacy, which is a framework for healthy eating and includes food and nutrition knowledge, food skills and attitudes towards food.

In 2018, thanks to generous grants from Farm to School BC and Vancity, the school was able to purchase new gardening equipment and cooking supplies to allow the garden activities to expand to the whole school, as previously a small number of parents and teachers were using the school plots.

Cultivating food literacy

School garden at Ecole Mission Central ElementaryThis past spring, all of the classes were able to take part in the garden activities. The primary classes planted the seeds while the intermediate classes did the weeding, watering, and harvesting. 

Opportunities for students to taste fruits and vegetables, including those grown in the garden, were also planned for the whole school. In March, thanks to a generous donation from Save-On-Foods, all students prepared fruit salad with their buddy classes. The older students chopped the fruit, while the younger students peeled and prepped the oranges. For the school’s sport’s day event in June, the school community came together, as parents and volunteers helped the students prepare wraps.  Leafy greens from the school garden plots, along with produce donated by Emma’s Acres and Save-On-Foods, were chopped up for the wraps by students the day before. School staff reported that both of these events were a big hit with the students, and most students were keen to try the fruit salads and wraps.  

Garden challenges and benefits

Similar to many school gardens, challenges have included continued maintenance of the school garden plots, maintaining on-going funding, and planting schedules.  Despite these challenges, the spring garden and school food activities have increased interest and commitment among classes to use and maintain the school garden in future years.

There were many benefits observed by school staff as a result of the students’ involvement in the garden and school food activities. Students: 

  • Exhibited calmer and more self-regulatory behaviour after spending time in the garden
  • Acquired new food preparation skills
  • Developed a better sense of community by preparing food together
  • Were exposed to more fruits and vegetables at school

Thanks to Farm to School and many other supporters, including Fraser Health Population & Public Health Dietitians and Healthy School Nurses for supporting this school project. 

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