By Ashliegh Gehl
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, and that’s why Grills Orchards takes pride in delivering hundreds of apples to schools in the Quinte region.
Diana McPherson, owner of Grills Orchards, has delivered apples, meat and homemade jams to local schools for the last two years. It’s part of Ontario’s Food for Learning program, an 11-year-old initiative carried out by the Hastings Prince Edward School Board.
“All year round, we do Bayside and Trenton,” said McPherson about the schools she delivers to. “In the fall, we do every school in Hastings right up to Bancroft. Everybody gets apples.”
Some schools take a bushel per week, others will take two and half, said McPherson. Grills has delivered about six bins of apples to date.
Students aren’t the only ones benefitting from this program.
“It has helped us in two ways. It’s helped us in that we’ve sold more apples,” said McPherson. “And it gave us exposure. In a lot of the schools, teachers would come in and see our place. It helps our business.”
Kellie Brace, Food for Learning program coordinator, says the success of the program is reflected in the number of schools participating and the number of students involved in the program.
“Given that our schools are far and wide in many different communities, the culture of each school is different,” said Brace. “Each school determines what their needs are and offers it according to what they can do in terms of volunteers from that community.”
Every school in the area offers a breakfast program, said Brace.
It could be a grab n’ go cold breakfast or a hot breakfast. Some schools offer lunch programs. Others offer light snacks.
Brace said more than 10,000 students use the program every school year.
The program educates students on the source of their food and the importance of locally grown products.
“I think the educating is done through role modeling and discussions with the staff and volunteers at the school,” said Brace. “Certainly when there’s a partnership with a local food producer they celebrate that at the school. And it informally educates the students on where the food is coming from and who provides it.”
Healthy eating at school may indirectly lead to healthy eating in the home.
“What we’re hoping happens is that we encourage the school to vary the menus of the food that’s offered to the students throughout the course of the school year,” said Brace. “And that by introducing students to a variety of new foods they will go home and tell their parents about it, and encourage their parents to purchase it as a regular item in their grocery shopping.”