The Francophone South school district and a co-operative of farmers in southeastern New Brunswick are joining together to put more local food on the menu in school cafeterias this year.
Really Local Harvest, a co-operative of 28 farms in southeastern New Brunswick, and the school district have created a new non-profit group that will supply and operate the local cafeterias.
Organizers say feeding the nearly 8,000 students in the school district is an ambitious move but the long-term goal is to have the idea catch on across the province.
Kent Coates, the owner Nature's Route farms and president of Really Local Harvest, is busy is working at his farm in Point de Bute these days.
He grows his vegetables without the use of pesticides and he said he is excited that more children will be eating more of them because of this new partnership with the school district.
"Eating fresh foods is going to have such a huge benefit on health," Coates said.
"The U.S. and Canada are not the most renowned around the world for having healthy lifestyles, and this is definitely one step in the right direction."
Coates said an earlier initiative that put more local food into school cafeterias saw an increase in the number of students who actually bought their meals each day.
"The bigger benefit comes from the eating habits that we're going to have in the children, one of the first schools that was done used to have 20 per cent of the students would eat their meals at the cafeteria, after a year in the project they upped it to 40 per cent," he said.
Other schools buying local food
The idea of incorporating more local food onto the menus of local schools has been catching on around the province.
Last year, Fredericton's Centre Communautaire Sainte-Anne hired a new head chef and began using more locally sourced food in the cafeteria that feeds the roughly 1,300 students at École Sainte-Anne and École des Batisseurs.
The goal for the new menu was to have 30 per cent local ingredients.
The addition of locally grown food is good news to some parents, such as Andy Samuel.
Samuel has two children attending a school that will benefit from the partnership between Really Local Harvest and the Francophone South school district.
He said he will consider the cafeteria more often knowing that the food is both good for his children and the environment.
"Less of a carbon foot print, and supporting the local economy and the local farmers as well, it's great," he said.