Getting youth to eat local

Healthy eating starts in our own backyard. Thomas Street Middle School in Mississauga, Ontario, is participating in a new pilot project designed to connect kids to their local farms. Led by the environmental education organization EcoSource and funded by a grant from Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, the Greenbelt Farm to School project plans to introduce students from Grade six to eight to local healthy foods produced in the Greenbelt. The project will also get students visiting local farms and participating in the spring planting and fall harvesting. "It takes a long time for adults to change their ways,"" Lea Ann Mallett, executive director of EcoSource told students from Thomas Street Middle School. "So you can set an example for us by doing everyday things to help reduce global warming—like eating Greenbelt apples. We can't rebuild our suburbs, but we can rebuild our ties with our living countryside." The program encourages children to be become a Greenbelt Local Food Ambassador and get together once a month to meet farmers, learn to cook and help put on events geared to getting others to eat locally. It also offers waste-reduction activities and help with planting gardens at school. "As the father of three young school children," said Burkhard Mausberg, president of Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, "I think it's important that they learn at an early age where their food comes from. Ultimately, I hope that when they look at Greenbelt apples, they see them as irresistible, because they are fresh, juicy and delicious, and at the same time good for the planet." The Greenbelt forms a green ring around the cities and subdivisions of the Golden Horseshoe, one of the most heavily populated areas in Canada. Consisting of 1.8 million acres of permanently protected green space, farmland, vibrant communities, forests, wetlands and watersheds, it extends up through the Oak Ridges Moraine to Lake Simcoe and Lake Scugog and eastward. It also includes the Niagara Escarpment along the Bruce Trail to Tobermory. Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation was created in 2005 and given a $25-million endowment by the Ontario government so it can protect the green space and farmlands from being gobbled up by urban development.