A Year of School Food

A Year of School Food

By Jenny Osburn

School’s out and Annapolis Valley cafeterias have closed their doors for summer! Let me tell you, it has been QUITE A YEAR working in school food in the Annapolis Valley.

I’ve gotten to know some very kind and hardworking “lunch ladies,” learned how to use the giant steam kettle at my old high school, and helped to feed lots of really excited kids (and staff!)

At Berwick School we’ve hosted plenty of interested visitors, many of whom have taken ideas back to their own schools and communities. Starting with inspiration from Valley school food visionaries like Kim Frank, Jeannie Myles, Amy Lake, Jennifer Killiam, and Amy Cook, salad bars and better menu items are popping up everywhere. Parents, teachers, and students alike are asking for change and administrators are listening and acting.

We’ve welcomed many wonderful Valley food producers to the school kitchen door, all of whom share our enthusiasm. Many have even made donations to help us with this transition.

We’re also developing recipes and tools to make it easier (and reliably delicious) to bring locally-focused menu items and salad bars to more schools!

Perhaps most exciting for me is that we’re ten weeks into our confidential pay-what-you-can program at Berwick School, so that everyone can access the same delicious meal without any stigma or shame. We hope that this can be a model for other schools to follow, and for our government to invest in.

We have a big vision and we’re seeing it become reality, starting small and building momentum. We believe that fixing school food can help to break the cycle of poverty that many Valley families experience. We know that serving local food at schools will improve the economy, meaning that more of our students will be able to live and thrive here. We believe that teaching kids how delicious REAL food is will improve our health outcomes, not in 20 years but starting right now.

We’ve seen firsthand the transformation that can happen when school kitchens are seen not as an afterthought, but as an essential and integral source of nourishment and joy.

Service groups and organizations have signed on with their support of this work, including Mud Creek Rotary, Western Kings Health Society, Western Kings Community Health Board, Berwick & District Lions Club, and Friends of Agriculture.

Save the date and mark your calendars for our epic fundraising dinner on October 19 at the Berwick & District Lions Club: The Valley Harvest Feast for School Food. Chefs Jason Lynch, Chantelle Webb, Nelson Penner, and Heather Marriage will all be contributing, along with Chef Michael Smith!

Huge thanks to the cooks Barb Henshaw, Janey Rigby, Pam Coleman, Tammy Smith-Eisner, Susan Lutz, and many, many others for making massive transformations to how you feed kids! It’s been an incredible leap of faith and labour of love.

Jenny Osburn is the author of The Union Street Café Cookbook. Her second collaboration with Laura MacDonald of Deep Hollow Print, The Kitchen Party Cookbook, is now available! Find more recipes at jennyosburn.com and see what she’s up to on instagram at jenny.osburn