Food in Schools

Through our work on the Youth and Local Food Program, Ecosource found that when participants in the food chain are engaged and better understand the impacts of their food choices, they are passionate about wanting to make informed food choices that benefit the environment and their local community.

Alternative Avenues: Bringing Ontario Foods to Ontario Classrooms

The Alternative Avenues for Local Food Procurement in Ontario Schools project addressed the need for assessment, analysis, training and barrier identification to increase the quantity of local food procured in Ontario School Boards. Through Regional School Food Action Hubs across the province of Ontario, we worked to improve access to local food in schools, food literacy in school programming and public sector procurement of local foods in the community. This project aimed to build stronger value chain links in Regional communities between school food procurement practices and local suppliers through multi-stakeholder coalition action. Our work specifically addressed local food procurement through the contexts of student and teacher-led food programs, student and school-led cafeteria programs, and student nutrition programs. To learn more about the Alternative Avenues project, see the video below and find the “Alternative Avenues to Local Food in Schools: Ingredients for Success” report here.

The Alternative Avenues project is generously funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food’s Local Food Fund and the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation. 

Cafeteria Connects: Bringing Ontario Foods to Secondary School Cafeterias

The Cafeteria Connects project, with support and funding from the Greenbelt Fund and the Ontario government, was led by Ecosource in association with Compass Group Canada and the Durham District School Board. The project involved training cafeteria staff on how to purchase, track, prepare, and communicate about local food options. In addition, there were celebrations for the produce and farmers of Ontario and Durham Region, in conjunction with workshops that integrate local food education into several curricula including business, hospitality, and family studies. For more information about this project, you can read the official press release by the Greenbelt Foundation here: Cafeteria Connects, read the Classroom Connects curriculum guide here, or watch the video that summarizes the project.

School Food Action Coalition

The School Food Action Coalition is the first of its kind in Ontario and has worked to identify opportunities for students to support local food purchasing in Peel secondary school cafeterias. The School Food Action Coalition project brought together stakeholders that influence Peel District School Board’s food procurement including representatives from the PDSB, Compass/Chartwells, Peel Public Health and Ecosource. Our goal was to increase local food options available in secondary school cafeterias and engage students in these food options through innovative outreach and participation campaigns.

Cooking Up Action! Culinary Challenge

In May 2011 and 2012 the Cooking Up Action! Culinary Challenge invited student teams to cook-off to present their healthy, local food focused school lunch choices before a panel of judges. The teams created recipes that:

  • Showcase Ontario products that meet the School Food Action Coalition definition of local (food that is produced in Ontario with primary ingredients raised and grown in Ontario)
  • Meet the nutritional requirements for food served in Ontario schools
  • Will be appealing to a secondary school student audience in a cafeteria setting

More Information

CBC News video report on student menu items

Cooking Up Action 2011: Local Food in Your Cafeteria video

Cooking Up Action promo video

The School Food Action Coalition has been recognized by Friends of the Greenbelt in the Ontario’s Local Food Champions 2012 report. Read the full article or download the entire report (PDF). For more information please email