What's it about?
This strategy gives centre stage to some of the healthiest food around: vegetables and fruit. It's about recognizing produce as an important part of school meal and snack programs, and getting students involved in opportunities to grow food at school. These are science-based ways of helping students to see vegetables and fruit as tasty and nutritious foods for every day.
Bonus: Once firmly rooted, your students' love for vegetables and fruit can last a lifetime.
Nurturing love for vegetables and fruit during the COVID-19 pandemic isn't as straightforward as it used to be, but it's still doable. Follow routine public health practices and know the requirements for safely serving food in your school authority. For quick tips, check out these infographics:
- Guidance for school breakfast programs during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Guidance for school snack programs during the COVID-19 pandemic
Boost your school food program
If your school has a breakfast or lunch program, incorporate vegetables and fruit into every meal. Or if you're new to school food programming, start with a snack program on a daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonal basis. These programs are a great way to boost students’ intake of vegetables and fruit, and to support a school culture where produce is appreciated and enjoyed. Here are some tips:
- Serve whole fruit like apples, bananas, or oranges.
- Portion 'no-prep veggies' (like baby carrots, sugar snap peas, or cherry tomatoes) into small compostable containers or bags for easy distribution
- Offer single servings of unsweetened apple sauce, fruit salad, or veggie and fruit-based smoothies.
- Promote fresh, local, or seasonal produce, like a “harvest of the month” vegetable-based soup or chili.
- In the winter, offer frozen or canned vegetables or fruit.
- Serve produce with healthy dip options, like pre-packaged hummus, tzatziki, or yogurt-based fruit dip.
- Take part in fun events or class challenges that promote vegetables and fruit, like “crunch days” or celebrations based on eating a variety of colours.
Vegetables for breakfast? Why not!
For tips to boost your breakfast program with vegetables and fruit, check out our School Breakfast Program Toolkit.
Find ways for students to get involved in seeding, planting, weeding, or harvesting their own vegetables or fruit. Some Alberta schools have had success with models like:
- Outdoor school gardens (or partnerships with nearby community gardens)
- Edible schoolyard projects
- Indoor container gardens or tower gardens
- Seed kits sent home with students
- Partnerships with nearby farms (both urban and rural)
- Learning from local chefs and Elders about food preservation, like drying fruit or meat
When schools shut down in spring 2020, seven Calgary-area high schools came together to offer free seeds and soil to students at home.
How it connects
When students are exposed to vegetables and fruit through school, they become more familiar with produce, more willing try it, and more likely to eat it. They also encourage family members at home to do the same.
There's also evidence that increased consumption of vegetables and fruit is linked to higher academic achievement.
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