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'Farm to Cafeteria' looks at local food in the public sector

How can public cafeterias get more B.C.-grown food on to trays? That's the focus of a "Farm to Cafeteria" conference taking place March 9 and 10 at Richmond's Terra Nova farm.

The conference is sponsored by the Public Health Association of B.C. and is aimed at public sector professionals interested in bringing more local food into the province's schools, hospitals and universities.

Joanne Bays, provincial manager of the Farm to School B.C. program, is organizing the conference. She says public schools in particular are taking on innovative partnerships with local growers. Farm to School launched salad bar pilot programs in 16 schools across the province in 2008. All but one are still going, says Bays, and six more have started up. "We proved if we give these schools funding to get it going, they can keep it going," says Bays.

She also points to Vancouver's Queen Alexandra high school, which struck a deal last year with Fresh Roots Urban Farm to grow produce right on the schools grounds (Fresh Roots recently announced similar partnerships at two more schools this year.)

"We'd like to see more of that," says Bays. "The overlying goal is how can we get local, fresh and sustainably produced food into our schools."

Conference speakers include author and former Vancouver councillor Peter Ladner, Richmond councillor Harold Steves, and Food Corps co-founder Cecily Upton.

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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