Blog Monthly Archives:: August 2013

Bicycles and Beets: Eating local can be fun!

by Jen Brennan

I’m a big fan of cycling. Not competitively, but as both a mode of transportation and a way to tour around our beautiful province. The past two summers, my bike and I have seen some breathtaking scenery on Galiano Island, toured wine country in the Okanagan, got [a little too] close and personal with a family of black bears in Whistler, and most recently, snacked our way up the Pemberton Valley for last weekend’s Slow Food Cycle. For those who have never heard of this amazing event, the Pemberton Slow Food Cycle is a 50km scenic ride through the fertile farmlands of the Pemberton Valley. Every year on a Sunday afternoon in August, some 4,000 hungry bikers of all ages meander their way on two wheels, making frequent pit stops at the many farms along the route to sample local produce, organic fruit, homemade honey, and freshly baked bread. It’s a wonderful opportunity for families to get outside and get active in one of the most breathtaking places on earth. jen riding

As I progressed my way from potato farms to lemonade stands, I was particularly struck by how excited all the children were to be on their bikes and see what tasty goodies awaited them around the next corner. I couldn’t help but think what a wonderful opportunity an event such as this is for kids to learn about where their food comes from, why we need to protect our valuable farmlands, and what fun it can be to get some exercise at the same time! I truly believe in the cause of the Slow Food Cycle, which is to connect consumers with the farmers who grow our food. When we take the time to learn about the importance of our farmland, and how lucky we are to have so many local food choices within our reach, we start to appreciate how valuable and fragile our environment is. It’s wonderful to see the next generation taking part in that learning, and I hope to soon see a new ‘crop’ (pun intended) of young farmers carry on what may become the start of a positive new way of eating.bikes

***The Healthy Schools BC portal has great programs and resources for educators around the province who are interested in starting or enhancing agricultural learning at their school, such as a school garden. Educators, please click here to see some programs and resources available to you! 

Bidding Adieu to DASH

by Tazeem Weljie

Over the last two and half years I have had the pleasure of working at DASH BC. It’s been a time of growth and development and I feel very privileged to have had this opportunity. As I wrap up, I have been reflecting on this journey, the experience I have gained and the many lessons I have learned.

As I move on to new a chapter, my greatest realization is how important it is to be surrounded with people who share similar values and beliefs. Here at DASH, our values are Balance, Fun, Learning, Contribution, and Collaboration.

I feel fortunate to have worked with a team who not only practice these on daily basis, but encourage others to as well. Personally, balance is something I strive for regularly, but tends to be the first thing to slip when work and life get busy. However at DASH, we believe that a balanced lifestyle leads to a happy, healthy, and hardworking team. Some ways in which we achieve this is by:

  • Spontaneous walks/lunch time yoga with the team
  • Opportunities to build and maintain positive working relationships with partners and community
  • impromptu breaks that encourage laughter and silliness
  • Brainstorming, working together, and supporting one another
  • Going into the community first-hand to see our impact
  • providing ways for staff to continually learn and blossom

As we move into the new school year, I encourage you to remember the importance of working hard, playing hard and surrounding yourself by people who are going to push you to be awesome, challenge you, and help you to get out of your comfort zone. Ask yourself this question…who’s on my team?

I want to say a big thank you to all of you on “Team Taz” – the internal DASH team, external partners, mentors, and friends who have been along on this journey with me. It’s been a wild ride!

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School Gardens – they’re about more than just growing food!

by Rebecca Haber

When I’m not working at DASH, I spend a lot of time with vegetables – growing them, picking them, pickling them, cooking them, eating them, sharing them. This intimate relationship with vegetable growing and eating is relatively new to me – I joined a community garden three years ago with no previous gardening experience. Around the same time I started a relationship with a vegetable farmer. The result: the world of produce has expanded before my eyes.

Red Cabbage

I now eat fruits and vegetables that I had never heard of before. Do you know what a quince is? Nettles? Kohlrabi? Items I’d only seen on grocery store shelves, like brussel sprouts (bottom picture), cabbage (picture on right), artichokes, and hazelnuts (picture on left), I have now seen growing on plants in the garden. I liken my new perspective on vegetables to DASH’s comprehensive, holistic approach to school health. A vegetable is not just the end product that you eat – it’s the soil it grows in, the plant it grows on, the care and nutrients it is given, and of course the food it produces.

Hazelnuts on a TreeAnalogies aside, I love all that I have recently learned about gardening. The value of growing food extends not only to healthy eating, but also to a new perspective on our environment and food system. This is why I am so excited about the healthy eating, gardening, and agricultural programs and resources currently available to students and teachers in BC. DASH partners with a number of healthy eating organizations and initiatives to coordinate actions in BC schools. Check out the websites of Farm to School and the BC School Fruit and Vegetable Nutritional Program, two of our partners who work to connect students to local food production. Through the Healthy Schools Network, we’ve also seen student-led initiatives in growing and cooking food from their own school gardens. I hope students with these opportunities can experience the wonder of watching a tiny seed grow and think bigger about where their food comes from.

Brussel Sprouts Plant

It’s harvest season in BC. Have you spotted any new or exciting veggies or fruit at your local store, farm stand, or in your garden? Are there school gardening programs we should know about? Tell us about them.

Sexual Health Education; are students getting the information they need?

by Alex Inman

Recently, while perusing social media on DASH’s behalf, I came across this link of sexual education videos from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. While some of the videos are outright hilarious, it got me thinking about how far sexual health education has come from those times, but also about how far we still have to go.

When I think back to the sexual health education I received during my middle and secondary school years, I think about the entire class studying the anatomy of the reproductive system, pubertal changes, and then daring each other to ask ridiculous and embarrassing questions followed by bouts of uncontrollable giggling. While I learned a lot about what to expect from my body when puberty hit and how a baby is made, I didn’t come away with much knowledge about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), birth control, or what a healthy vs. unhealthy relationship looks like. Come to think of it, most (if not, all) of my knowledge about sexual health came from my own personal research conducted online (via AskAlice or even other, less reputable, websites), and talking to friends and family.

In hindsight, I could have really used more information from high school about sexual health education. I understand that, currently, public health nurses (PHNs) play a role in sexual health education in schools. Since I never had the experience of a PHN coming in to my classroom for these sessions, I’m wondering how sexual health education has changed from my experience. Sometimes I wonder if lack of knowledge and insufficient information is what leads to many other women and men not protecting themselves from infections, unplanned pregnancy, and unhealthy relationships.

While I appreciate that sexual health education strikes personal chords with varying groups of people based on their own cultural and religious beliefs, I strongly believe that knowledge is power and by providing this information to children and youth we are providing them with the tools and skills to make informed choices and protect themselves.

What are your experiences with sexual health education? Did you feel that you learned everything you needed to know in middle or secondary school? Where did you get your sexual health knowledge from (e.g. school, online, through a friend/family member, from TV/movies)? What roles did educators vs. health professionals play in sexual health education for you? What do you think the differences in education could be depending on who is presenting the information? Leave your comment in the section below!

If you are an educator looking to explore sexual health education in your classroom, please visit the Healthy Schools BC portal for a great list of programs and resources available to you.