Farm to school in British Columbia: mobilizing food literacy for food sovereignty


Farm to school programs have been positioned as interventions that can support goals of the global food sovereignty movement, including strengthening local food production systems, improving food access and food justice for urban populations, and reducing distancing between producers and consumers. However, there has been little assessment of how and to what extent farm to school programs can actually function as a mechanism leading to the achievement of food sovereignty. As implemented in North America, farm to school programs encompass activities not only related to school food procurement, but also to the development of student knowledge and skills under the framework of food literacy. Research on farm to school initiatives has largely been conducted in countries with government-supported national school feeding programs; this study examines farm to school organizing in Canada, where there is no national student nutrition program. Using qualitative fieldwork and document analysis, we investigate the farm to school movement in British Columbia, in a context where civil society concerns related to education and health have been the main vectors of farm to school mobilization. Our analysis suggests that, despite limited institutional infrastructure for school meals, the British Columbia farm to school movement has contributed toward realizing goals of food sovereignty through two main mechanisms: advocacy for institutional procurement of local and sustainable foods and mobilizing food literacy for increased public engagement with issues of social justice and equity in food systems.

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British Columbia


British Columbia Agriculture in the Classroom


British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture


British Columbia Ministry of Education


British Columbia Ministry of Health


British Columbia Ministry of Healthy Living and Sport


British Columbia School Fruit and Vegetable Nutrition Program


Congressional Budget Office


Coalition for Healthy School Food


Edible Schoolyard Project


Farm to School Greater Vancouver


Farm to School Vancouver Area Regional Hub


Group of Eight Industrialized Nations


Home-Grown School Feeding Program


Ontario Ministry of Education


Non-governmental Organization


Public Health Association of British Columbia


United States Department of Agriculture


United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service


Vancouver School Board


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We are grateful for research assistance from Winie Vasconcelos and Ricardo Barbosa, and farm to school program support from Vanessa Perrodou and Amber Cowie. This research was partially funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Public Health Association of British Columbia.

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Correspondence to Lisa Jordan Powell or Hannah Wittman.

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Powell, L.J., Wittman, H. Farm to school in British Columbia: mobilizing food literacy for food sovereignty. Agric Hum Values 35, 193–206 (2018).

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  • Food sovereignty
  • Food literacy
  • Farm to school