Summerside’s Farmed Market uses their facility to make healthy school lunches

In the wake of the PEI government’s announcement last fall to implement a province-wide school food program, Farmed Market and Craft Butchery owners Darcia and Jordon Burnett saw a community need for healthy school lunch options, and decided to jump in. What originally started as a meals-to-go idea has become a well-received, healthy school lunch offering to Summerside’s Greenfield Elementary School twice a week and to Borden-Carleton’s Amherst Cove Consolidated on Wednesdays.

Recognizing a need for healthy food options in local schools, the Burnetts have created a program that consists of food offerings made from scratch, using local, whole foods. Wednesday is hot lunch day, Friday is cold lunch day, and you’ll see things on the menu like Thai chicken salad, Buddha bowls, and ham and cheese sandwiches using their own smoked ham, ADL cheese, and homemade bread.

“Even our meatball and spaghetti is homemade spaghetti sauce, meatballs we make here with no filler, homemade pasta. So the kids are eating whole food, not anything processed,” Darcia said. “That’s something that we really believe in, and something that we did as parents with our own children, is only fed them whole foods. That’s kind of just our own philosophy. And I believe it’s healthier for people, no matter what diet they’re on, to look for food that’s not processed.”
Each month they build a rotating menu, adding one or two new options for students to try, bringing back the most popular items the following month. Parents can select which meals they want to buy for their child from an online site called Each lunch costs $4.50, which is the same price as other meal options provided in the schools. An additional fifty cent charge applies for gluten-free options.

It’s not a money-making thing, Darcia said. “We don’t make a lot of money at all from our school lunch program. We find that it’s ethically the right thing to do, and we get a lot of customers coming into our store—either they’re parents, grandparents, or aunts and uncles—who have heard of us from the school lunch program. And that alone is value to us.”

On Wednesdays, they typically serve 100 to 120 students between the Amherst Cove and Greenfield schools. Each week they see an increase in numbers, Darcia said. “We take pictures of the lunches and put them online so the kids and the parents and family members and teachers can see what we are doing. And I’ve been getting a lot of feedback from other schools.”

Farmed would love to add more schools to their lunch program, Darcia said. “We have a very large facility and it would only mean hiring more people, which would bring in more jobs for the economy.”

Little Buddha bowls for cold lunch day with organic lettuce from Schurman Family Farm, ADL sour cream and cheese, Farmed’s house-made sugar free salsa, and organic rice submitted photo

People tend to eat too much processed food, and vegetables are often overlooked, especially in a young person’s diet, Darcia said. “Everyone goes for the big brand names, because they recognize them and its convenient, but they’re not looking at what is the makeup of it all…how is it made? Where is it coming from? What’s in it? Who made it, who grew the food, is it an industrial farm or is it a farmer? That’s more important I think; to know where your food comes from.”

Robyn Walsh is a member of the Amherst Cove school’s parent council. They started bringing in Farmed lunches in January 2019 after seeing a void in the school’s lunch menu. Parents volunteer to pick up the lunches each week from Farmed and deliver to the school, where about 40 students regularly receive the lunches each week. The kids and parents are really loving it, Walsh said. “I haven’t heard one negative comment.”

Aside from the Farmed lunches, Amherst Cove alternates between bringing in Domino’s Pizza, Greco, and Goji’s frozen yogurt for lunch, Walsh said. “We really focus on promoting healthy eating through our breakfast program and offering the Farmed lunches.”

“I think we really need to be more conscious about schools that still have vending machines (Amherst does not) and even just bringing in things like pizza, I think it’s good to do that once in a while, but when that becomes twice a week offering, I think that’s a slippery slope to just be eating junk food for lunch.”

As a teacher herself, Walsh has always seen a core relation between students who eat healthy food, and their ability to be alert throughout the day. She said. “It was very common for me—when I was teaching junior high students that would drink pop and sports drinks at lunch—to see that two o’clock crash. That would hit them hard.”

The Kinkora family of schools and Amherst Cove are going to be part of the new school food pilot project set to launch in fall 2019. “I’m really excited about that because I think the exposure to healthy foods for some kids who may not receive that at home, just the promotion of eating healthy, local food and also the equity, communal factor of all eating the same thing, is important.”

The emphasis on local and healthy just seem to go hand in hand, Walsh said. “Darcia at Farmed has been really excellent in communicating the menu offerings and coming up with these really great meals. They are super kid-friendly, and I think that’s key.” For a price point of $4.50, it’s a great offering, she said. “We feel really lucky to have that to offer our students.”


About Brenlee Brothers

Brenlee is an earthy Islander who loves beauty, and the smell of salt water on the wind. As a seeker, she loves to learn and explore new places; all the while, finding comfort in a slow, simple life. A lover of house plants, herbs and getting her hands dirty; whether it be in the earth, or by sculpting clay, she is constantly discovering new passions as she delves deeper into her Self. Heart based, and community minded, while drinking the sweet nectar of solitude. Brenlee has kept a journal since she was a child, and as a graduate of Holland College Journalism she is grateful to practice the art of storytelling through her writings in Salty.

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