Over the past decade VON/OSNP-SW has been working with Community Partnerships across Southwestern Ontario to test various models for the centralized procurement and delivery of food to schools.  We are thankful to the many community partners, schools and stakeholders who have participated in these initiatives. These pilots over the last 10 years have helped create the foundation for the exciting launch of our Vegetable and Fruit Delivery Model that will be offered to more than 100 schools across the region in the 2017-18 school year!

Pre-set Menu Pilot in Lambton County

In spring 2017, OSNP-Lambton in partnership with OSNP-SW Region provided a Pre-set Menu Procurement Pilot to three schools in Lambton County from March 27th and June 15th (12 weeks).  The pilot offered a fruit or vegetable plus another food group three days per week to participating schools.  A pilot evaluation was conducted the week of June 19-23rd and results will be presented Fall of 2017.

Bulk Food Purchasing Program

OSNP’s Bulk Food Purchasing Program was a purchasing portal and direct delivery model that launched in Windsor-Essex, Chatham-Kent and Sarnia-Lambton in 2013.  With the help of MealSource, the program expanded (Spring 2015) to Elgin, Oxford and London schools which gave over 350 schools the ability to order fresh food on a weekly basis delivered to their door.  In January 2017, the program was suspended to focus on the development of the new Vegetable and Fruit Delivery Program that is equipped to service our whole region. 

Key Learnings: Local and centralized food procurement including product pricing and logistics mapping. Need high volume of school participation to keep food costs competitive. 

Grey & Perth County Farm-to-School Programs 

From September 19th to November 11, 2016, 7 schools in southern Grey county and 7 schools in Stratford and Shakespeare received 8 weeks of fresh vegetable and fruit deliveries for their school student nutrition programs. This eight-week pilot project provided 1 serving of fresh produce per student, for 5 days of the week.  This program was designed to address many challenges faced by nutrition programs when trying to operate efficiently and nourish students on a daily basis.  Local suppliers and distributors helped to test, research and gain insight on the need for future collaboration, partners and support in the area.

Participating Grey County Schools: Ecole Macphail Elementary School, Highpoint Community School, Beavercrest Community School, Ospery Central School, Dundalk and Proton Community School, Holland Chatsworth Central School and Grey Highlands Secondary School.

Participating Perth County Schools: Romeo Public School, Avon Public School, Anne Hathaway Public School, Sprucedale Public School, North Easthope Public School, Stratford Northwestern Elementary School and St. Ambrose Catholic Elementary School.

Chatham-Kent Farm-to-School Program

For 4 consecutive years, the Farm to School program in Chatham-Kent began provided fresh, local produce to thousands of students every school day from spring 2014 – 2017.  With the support of OSNP-Chatham-Kent and the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit, OSNP Southwest coordinated the centralized purchase and and delivery of the local produce from local farmers. Once delivered, volunteers prepared and served it to all students in the school free of charge.  Apples, peppers mini-cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and dehydrated sweet potato chips have been on previous menus.  

Starting with 8 schools, Year 1 (March 2014) of the program was made possible through a generous donation by the Newman’s Own Foundation.  In Year II (2014/15) the program expanded to 16 schools across the 3 school boards serving. The Grocery Foundation subsequently supported OSNP in expanding the program to 21 schools for Year III in 2016 for the 2015-2016 school year. And in its last year (March-June 2017) the program served over 4,600 students at 21 schools in the area. An evaluation of the program was conducted by Dr. Sarah Woodruff at the University of Windsor. 

Year I (2013/14) – 8 schools | 4 days per week | 16 weeks.

Year II (2014/15) – 16 schools | 3,600+ students | 5 days per week | 16 weeks

Year III (2015/16) – 21 schools | 5 days per week | 10 weeks (fruit/vegetable plus a second food group)

Year IV (2016/17) – 21 schools | 4,600+ students | 5 days per week | 8 weeks 

“Our Farm to School program helps to make a connection between our local farmers and our young people, who are the consumers of tomorrow,” says Elaine Lewis,  OSNP Chatham-Kent’s Community Development Coordinator. “It is a relationship that encourages life-long healthy eating habits and supports our local economies. Our people in Chatham-Kent are low in their consumption of fruits and vegetables. According to a health unit survey, we are the lowest in Ontario.  Farm to School is aimed at increasing that consumption.” If you’d like to know more about the Farm to School Pilot Project, click here to read “Now this is a story all about how Chatham-Kent brought in Farm-to-School”.

Key Learnings: OSNP learned the logistics of being directly involved in local food procurement and the delivery service to school doors. OSNP confirmed that teachers, parents, students want to know more about where their food comes from and the local farmers that produce it.

Harvest of the Month

In partnership with SCOR Food Hub, OSNP provided Thames Valley schools with one free produce product delivered monthly from March to June in 2014/15 and 2015/16.  Over 33,000 students in London/Middlesex, Elgin and Oxford counties received local produce items such as apples, mini cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, asparagus and strawberries.  As an additional fun spin, SCOR Food Hub included information on the produce item, the farm suppliers, recipes and activity sheets. 

Key Learnings: Students, staff and community partners alike reported favourable feedback on this initiative, particularly the resources that give students a firsthand opportunity to learn about the farmers who grew their healthy snacks.

Windsor-Essex Central Procurement Pilot

Launched in February 2013, 6 schools in Windsor and Essex County, schools received freshly prepared food delivered directly to their doors. Under the guidance of professional chef and teacher Robert Catherine, OSNP partnered with an innovative high school co-op program based out of the Windsor’s Unemployed Help Centre to pilot central procurement as a way to streamline food purchasing for student nutrition programs.

Students prepared items such as vegetable sushi, granola bars and spinach muffins for as little as $0.06/serving. Students earned four high school credits, a college credit, and a number of additional certifications while making healthy snacks for this student nutrition program pilot project. 

Key Learnings: Demonstrated promising opportunities working with youth and/or other social enterprises to prepare unique, value-added products for student nutrition programs.

Fruit and Veggies for Every Student (FAVES)

From February to June 2007, OSNP-SW partnered with CanAdvance and the Ontario Produce Marketing Association to deliver a vegetable and fruit snack program in the London District Catholic School Board. The FAVES program was a 12 week pilot program that offered a fresh fruit or vegetable 3 days a week to Grades 1 through Grade 8 in 50 elementary schools.

OSNP-SW purchased and delivered the product to 16,000 students with great success.  Both self-reported vegetable and fruit consumption rates and vegetable and fruit preferences significantly increased from pre-test to post-test for many of the snacks provided by the program.

Key Learnings: Evidence was further established that a universally offered school fruit and vegetable program could have a positive impact on student daily consumption and preference for various fruits and vegetables.  These findings justify further research investment in school food programming as an innovative health promotion intervention.  Detailed analysis of the logistics of coordinating the purchase and delivery of produce directly to an entire school district over a sustained period of time was obtained and documented.

Healthy Hearts, Healthy Minds

In the 2004/05 and 2005/06 academic years, OSNP partnered with the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers to deliver its first exciting pilot project.  It began in 2004/05 in Windsor and Essex County where 10 schools participated in a centrally procured healthy snack program where all students received one serving of fresh, donated produce daily for 16 weeks.

The veggies included mini cucumbers, mini tomatoes and sliced peppers.  A PhD candidate conducted the research evaluation, which included a pre- and post-test survey and facilitated discussions with selected students, staff and parents.  The major findings in year one were a dramatic increase in students’ preference towards certain vegetables after being exposed to them through the 16-week program.

Key Learnings: Healthy Hearts, Healthy Minds yielded promising evidence that offering students vegetables in a classroom setting has a positive influence on their self-reported preferences for certain vegetables.

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