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Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Spirits: How students are leading change in their community

Wellness stories need the right conditions to grow. See how the Natoaganeg School created the right social and physical environments to nurture healthy eating – take a look at the infographic on the right!

It’s not the story you would expect—to see a student walking down the halls of a school eating a head of romaine lettuce. But that’s exactly what you might see if you visit the Natoaganeg School in Miramichi!

The school’s Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, and Healthy Spirits project, coordinated by Chad Duplessie, takes a holistic approach to get students to make healthier choices in their lives. What started as a breakfast program 8 years ago, sponsored by a grant from Canadian Feed the Children, has grown into a multi-year investment that allowed the school to build a state-of-the-art industrial cafeteria that’s staffed by community members. Students now receive a healthy breakfast and lunch — made from scratch no less. The food is so good that parents are calling the cafeteria for recipes, and students are opting for the homemade cafeteria food over pizza parties and asking for traditional meals for graduation ceremonies!

But the changes in the school are much broader: there’s a Fresh for Less program, a school garden and Family Kitchens as well. Fresh for Less is a good food box program that’s run out of the school. As many as 25% of the households in the community take part and receive a box of fresh fruits and vegetables at a discounted price. The boxes are packed and organized by the school’s Youth Champions, a group of grade 6 students who Chad says are really rising to the occasion. To prepare the boxes, the students must use their math skills to make sure each box receives the right amount of food. They also learn about and taste fruits and vegetables that they might not be familiar with. This experiential learning is invaluable and often results in students taking leftover food with them as a reward – from kiwis to a head of romaine!

In the school garden, there are 10 raised beds and a greenhouse tended to by the students. There’s also a new irrigation system in the works so that more food can be grown for cafeteria meals. The Family Kitchens program is a monthly cooking class where students, youth, grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles all come together to learn about nutrition and cook meals together.

What’s happening in the school is spilling beyond the walls more and more, and it is the students of Natoaganeg School who are championing change towards greater wellness in their community!

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