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St. Martin de Porres High School promotes healthy eating thanks to Farm 2 Cafeteria grant

St. Martin de Porres High School is bringing locally sourced food to its school cafeteria, thanks to the support from the Farm 2 Cafeteria grant.
A $10,000 grant allowed St. Martin de Porres students to access a salad bar every other Wednesday this school year. Photo submitted/For Airdrie City View

St. Martin de Porres High School received a nearly $10,000 grant from Farm 2 Cafeteria Canada this year, which helped fund a variety of sustainable and healthy food projects at the Airdrie-based Catholic school. 

After receiving the grant, in January, Kathy Pittis, a diverse learning coordinating teacher at St. Martin de Porres High School, began creating projects to promote healthy eating on campus. 

“The grant was basically to begin an initiative at a school where [we] really prioritized eating local, sustainable, and healthy [food],” Pittis said. 

With the grant, the high school was able to craft cedar plant boxes, create a salad bar using locally sourced products for students, and launch a MasterChef competition, among other initiatives. 

To highlight the projects created by the Farm 2 Cafeteria grant, the school hosted a kick-off event. Staff and student volunteers had to create a sustainable and healthy lunch option, which used almost all locally sourced products and that would feed the entire school, as outlined by the Farm 2 Cafeteria contract, Pittis said. 

“We did [the kick-off] over four days, so we did a grade every day and roughly just below or above 200 kids a day,” Pittis explained. 

In particular, Pittis enlisted the support of four Grade 9 students who helped every day with preparation and serving, while students from a Grade 11 class assisted in cooking the food. 

For four days, the high school served tacos, nachos handmade by an Airdrie resident, guacamole, and pico de gallo. The only food served that was not locally sourced was sour cream, according to Pittis. 

MasterChef Competition

To increase student awareness of the kick-off event, Pittis created a MasterChef competition. 

The competition was open to all students. Groups of three participated in the competition, which featured different rounds with cooking challenges, eliminations, and a winning group. 

The winning team then got to create their own salad bar lunch for the school. 

The MasterChef competition was filmed in four episodes, which were later broadcast to the entire high school.

Enlisting the help of students from across the high school, the MasterChef episodes featured student actors. Some students took on the task of editing the video. 

“It was a really good way to get more kids involved and talking about food,” Pittis said. 

Cedar Planters

The Farm 2 Cafeteria grant also allowed the school to hand-craft two cedar wood planters. Two Grade 11 students designed and created the planters as part of a construction class project. 

West Coast Seeds donated seeds with a short growing time to the high school, so the students would be able to enjoy the fresh food before the school year ended. 

“We’re mostly growing different types of lettuces and some micro-greens and radish sprout, things that grow pretty quick,” Pittis said. 

Salad Bar

A school salad bar was offered to students every other Wednesday. For $3.50 to $4, students were able to purchase a healthy lunch option made with locally sourced ingredients. Two student volunteers served their fellow peers at the salad bar, with the help of staff members. 

“There’s definitely a positive response that a lot of people really love it,” Pittis added. “I think the student potential is high and it’s started out really good.” 

However, the future of the salad bar remains unclear, as St. Martin de Porres will be undergoing renovations quite soon, and Pittis will be leaving the school this summer. 

“There are a few unknowns next year,” she said. “Hopefully the salad bar will remain, but it is gigantic, so space might be an issue.” 

Pittis said the salad bar is a unique feature of the high school and she believes it could become a focal piece after the renovation. 

“The biggest impact [of the salad bar] has been trying more healthy food…we have kids choosing to stay [at school] for the salad bar on Wednesdays,” she said, mentioning the many fast food options located near the high school, which tend to attract the students during their lunch breaks. 

The salad bar also helps to promote local food producers. 

“It’s a great way to support our local farmers and all the local businesses that are around us,” Pittis said.

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