Toronto tots at child care centres get their hands dirty, plant vegetables

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Children at Toronto Early Learning and Child Care Centres got their hands dirty on Thursday at seed planting events at the Metro Hall and Ancaster locations in celebration of local food. Joining the children were Councillor James Pasternak (Ward 10 York Centre), Chair of the Community Development and Recreation Committee, Councillor Maria Augimeri (Ward 9 York Centre), Elaine Baxter-Trahair, General Manager of City of Toronto Children’s Services, City staff, Toronto Home Child Care providers and representatives from Holland Marsh Growers Association.

The  gardening activities are part of a larger initiative between City of Toronto Children’s Services and Holland Marsh Growers Association. Children in preschool programs at all 52 Toronto Early Learning and Child Care Centres and home child care locations planted vegetable seeds.

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Children will also have an opportunity to visit the Holland Marsh, known as “Ontario’s soup and salad bowl,” to see how local food is grown and harvested. The area is home to about 110 farmers over 7,000 acres that grow 66 varieties of vegetables. “This is a wonderful opportunity to teach children that vegetables don’t just come from supermarkets,” said Councillor Pasternak.” It also provides an opportunity for children to learn about healthy eating habits.”

On Thursday, the children planted seeds for six vegetables: lettuce, beans, beets, tomatoes, carrots and onions. They will care for, harvest and eat these vegetables over the coming months, with Holland Marsh Growers providing a prize for the best vegetables at the end of the season.

“Children will learn about what it means to grow and care for healthy food,” said Councillor Augimeri. “Gardening is the best way to instill these values that will hopefully develop into lifetime habits.”

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The Children’s Services division has been committed to providing locally-produced food at more than 50 of its Toronto Early Learning and Child Care Centres since 2011 as part of the local food procurement policy. The policy’s goal is to increase the amount of locally-produced food served at City facilities, and recognizing that the purchase of local food supports local producers and reduces greenhouse gas emissions generated when food is shipped long distances.

In 2012, Children’s Services partnered with the Toronto Environment Office to compile a series of recipes that are at least 50 per cent local. All of these recipes were tested and “kid approved” by children at Toronto Early Learning and Child Care Centres. – CINEWS

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