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Working towards a school food program in B.C.

Working towards a school food program in B.C.

Researcher Tammara Soma and her team are conducting case studies on this subject

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

A B.C. researcher is using grant funding to better understand the potential of scaling up food procurement from farms to schools in B.C.

Tammara Soma and her team have conducted four case studies on the topic.

“We’re trying to answer the questions ‘what does it mean and what would it take to scale up farm to school programming all across the province?’” she told

One case study focuses on planning and if such a program is even possible.

Farmers are interested in participating in a food to school program, but sectorial challenges may prevent that from happening, Soma said.

“We know farmers are looking for alternative opportunities for their goods,” she said. “And one thing we want farmers to know is we’re not looking to go the donation route; farmers would be paid fairly for their contributions to the program. Right now, there’s a lack of infrastructure in place locally. Farmers expressed needing an aggregator to handle orders, packaging, invoicing and delivery.”

B.C. has Grow BC, Feed BC, Buy BC, which helps strengthen the province’s agri-food sector.

But those programs need to be improved, Soma said.

“Many of the people we spoke with think the programs need to support procurement rather than just supporting marketing,” she said.

Another case study looks at another jurisdiction and what it’s doing to provide students with local food.

For this, Soma’s team looked elsewhere in B.C., at Haida Gwaii.

“Their farm to school is more like “traditional” food to school, like deer and fish,” Soma said. “There’s a lot of great examples with that model but we’re early into that study so we’ll have more to share as we learn more.”

The third case study Soma’s team is doing revolves around lessons learned from COVID-19.

Schools in B.C. that did offer students snacks or meals shut down for periods of time as COVID spread.

“The schools were a place where kids who were food insecure could go to get a proper meal,” Soma said. “We interviewed different schools where some staff tried to deliver snacks or tried virtual programming but didn’t offer any actual food. So we looked at if there was another emergency or pandemic, how could we use schools as a place for emergency food preparedness.”

In August 2020, the Breakfast Club of Canada estimated the number of children going to class on an empty stomach increased from 1 million to 2 million.

Another study Soma’s team is conducting is an environmental impact one.

The researchers are looking at how operating a food to school program would affect multiple parts of the environment.

“We want to know what this looks like from a greenhouse gas emission or water usage perspective, compared to buying imported food,” Soma said. will connect with Soma in the fall when detailed information about her team’s case studies is available.

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