Danica Day is growing alfalfa seeds as part of a school project.

Danica Day is growing alfalfa seeds as part of a school project.

Move over, Hot Dog Day

South Nelson’s healthy eating initiative has youngsters chowing down on local greens.

South Nelson Grade 2 student Danica Day is cultivating alfalfa seeds in a small plastic cup lined with paper towel, along with her entire class. Someday soon she hopes to sprinkle them on her salad.

“First we had a paper towel, and we put our finger in to push it to the bottom. These are the seeds, and then it’s going to grow into alfalfa,” Day told the Star, during a healthy eating presentation from her teacher Daphne Van Alstine. “I’m pretty excited to put it on my salad.”

And if you’re surprised to hear a youngster speak enthusiastically about eating greens, get used to it: the school’s weekly salad bar program is going strong.

“I was hired by the South Nelson parent advisory council to prepare the salad bar on a weekly basis,” parent Janine Pierson said. “It was originally inspired by a Farm to School grant, but now it runs on its own as a regular school program.”

Salad ingredients are sourced from local farmers and businesses, including the Uphill Bakery, which delivers fresh bread in its bright orange electric vehicle.

“When your food is really fresh, it tastes so much better. And if you’re part of growing it you can understand how things in season taste best. I think this will inspire a lot more healthy eating.”

Pierson’s own children are more inclined to take certain ingredients at school than they are at the dinner table, because they’re taking their cues from enthusiastic peers.

“It’s good to branch out and go beyond Hot Dog Day,” principal Kim Jones said. “I remember my Mom coming into Hot Dog Day and it was great fun but there were zero health benefits. It was all about fundraising.”

That’s not how Salad Day works, she said.

“Now we’ve got fresh food, a parent volunteer, and we’re connecting these kids with local farmers.”

The entire project was made possible by program coordinator Louise Poole last year. Van Alstine was effusive about how the weekly salad bar developed, and how much her students have embraced it.

“It’s a wonderful smorgasbord of a variety of lettuce, veggies, seeds, and other toppings,” she said. “Next month we will be growing greens and maybe some radishes. This all ties into an awareness of how plants grow, what parts of plants we eat, healthy choices and the joy of watching something grow.”

And the kids love it.

When asked why she considers learning how to grow her own food an important skill to have, Day was succinct: “Because then I’m going to have something to eat.”