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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Understanding school farms and their capacity to build food literacy education in British Columbia Blair, Samantha A.


Food insecurity, diet-related chronic illnesses, and climate change have become more prominent in public health and education policy, leading to the identification of many policy and program gaps in our food and education systems. Research shows young adults finishing secondary school without consistent food education lack knowledge of basic nutrition, food skills, food systems, everyday food practices, and food production. School farms as food literacy interventions can positively impact food literacy and food security. Links have been established between food literacy and food system knowledge and healthier food practices to decrease diet-related diseases like obesity and diabetes amongst individuals and improve overall community health and well-being. However, little research exists on self-identifying school farms as unique and specific programs or their connection to food literacy in secondary schools. This community-based research study aimed to develop a working definition of ‘school farm’ and understand school farms’ capacity to build adolescent food literacy. I used semi-structured interviews with multiple stakeholders (n=18) across 6 school farms in British Columbia, Canada, and applied Framework Analysis using food literacy and community-determined frameworks as well as inductive coding to analyse qualitative data. My analysis showed that school farms are defined by 1) food production capacity and scale; 2) community integration, and 3) experiential educational opportunities to teach food systems and core curricula. School farms offer comprehensive food literacy education, including individual and collective food system skills, behaviours, and knowledges, to improve personal, community, and environmental health. My data also revealed school farms’ positive impacts on students’ mental health and well-being, and the academic success of neurodivergent and culturally diverse students who often struggle in traditional formal education settings. Additionally, the data indicated school farms face major barriers like funding, sustainability, and management obstacles. This study helps to clarify the concept of school farms and explain how they contribute to student food literacy, especially within the context of British Columbia.

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