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#882 Tweaking children’s Tastebuds in Hamilton, Ontario

Delivering food to schools by bike

The Hammer Active Alternative Transportation (THAAT) bike with a local food delivery at St Ann Catholic Elementary School – full of apples from Lincoln Line Orchards; photo from Tastebuds Facebook page

Part of loving children is feeding them the best possible food. In Hamilton, Ontario, a “student nutrition collaborative” called Tastebuds is showing the love. The program started as Hamilton Partners in Nutrition. That is the sort of utilitarian name I would probably come up with but definitely lacks the panache of the re-branded Tastebuds.

They have a big vision:

All students in Hamilton have universal access to healthy foods in schools and community environments to improve student success, support healthy growth, development, and lifelong eating habits.

Of course, a vision is only as good as the actions that accompany it. This group’s 2012-2013 track record shows how hard they work to make the big dream a reality.

One way is through the 3Acres Local Harvest Program. The pilot program not only serves food grown on nearby farms. It walks the environmental sustainability talk by delivering it via THAAT (The Hammer Active Alternative Transportation) bicycles. Teachable moments follow every step of the way, from the small farms growing the produce to the classrooms and cafeterias of participating schools.

Those seven schools account for only a fraction of the program’s reach, which served students in 105 locations in 2012-2013. Add up all the healthy meals and snacks served by Tastebuds that year, and you know the 1,095 volunteers were on the run.

Program Manager Deirdre Pike told the Hamilton Spectator’s Teri Pecoskie:

There’s a partly erroneous message that this is about feeding poor kids. While we do focus on making sure programs are in place in vulnerable neighbourhoods, we actually believe more in the reality that all kids have the potential to be nutritionally poor.

Nutritional poverty is a serious and growing issue, not just in Hamilton but globally. Diet-related illnesses and obesity are on the rise. Tastebuds is taking steps to change that by linking food producers, community agencies and schools. They are putting children on a strong nutritional foundation, giving local farmers a better market, and educating the whole community about why it is important. They give me hope.

You can follow Tastebuds on Twitter and Facebook.

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