Calculating our Lunch Footprint

Students shopping at Farm boyStudents shopping at Farm Boy for a project A Map measuring the distance food travels




















Three times a week students at The Element cook hot lunches as a part of the Cooking Program. Assigned students are responsible for grocery shopping each week and students experience a variety of food. Grade 8 and 9 students recently investigated where the food they eat actually comes from through a case study on food security in Ottawa. As a part of this project, students learned about the importance of the local food movement. We discussed its social, economic, and environmental benefits, and why it is sometimes a challenge to eat local in Canada, especially during the long winter months.

Participating students ventured to Farm Boy to investigate where the ingredients of each of the lunches they’d eaten the previous week came from. This included a Vegetarian Chili, a Mexican Lasagna and French Toast. At the store, the manager recognized us from our weekly grocery shopping trips, so he came over and talked about where Farm Boy gets their stock from. The students learned that Farm Boy has partnerships with many local farms, especially during the summer.

Students were responsible for calculating the distance travelled by each ingredient. They recorded their results on maps of the world, which are now displayed around the classroom. Students learned that many of the foods we buy from grocery stores have to travel a long distance to get to Canada. Whether food travels by plane, ship, or truck, this transportation releases a significant amount of greenhouse gases into the earth’s atmosphere, and this has a significant impact on the environment.