HOME PAILS a Division of Food for Thought – Sustainable Urban Farming Project


Our vision is to create local, sustainable food options. At Kapuskasing District High School (KDHS) the Food for Thought – Sustainable Urban Farming project is designed on PBL where students actively engage in learning how to grow food in Northern Ontario using indoor hydroponic and aquaponic technology to grow food throughout the year. With the money we received from the Youth Forum we expanded on our current food systems in place to teach students that living in the north does not mean we are not capable of growing healthy, local food. The project is designed off of a living laboratory where students go through the entire process of growing food from seed to harvest. The goal is to inspire students to take this knowledge home and to begin growing some of their own food with their families. The Food for Thought – Sustainable Urban Farming project exposes students to future farming technology in the form of hydroponic and aquaponic systems. We have invested in ZipGrow hydroponic grow systems to be placed in the school cafeteria where we will grow a living salad bar for students to learn and eat from this hyper-local growing method. This project aims to be a model school farm that can be adapted to all schools across Canada to teach about growing local food, eating fresh from the school produce and helping combat hunger and climate change. The benefits of this initiative are immeasurable.

This year, with the support of LSF and the grant money from the Youth Forum , the Food for Thought – Sustainable Urban Farming project created HOME PAILS. With the rising cost of groceries and the impending food insecurity that results from rising costs to produce food, we decided as a class to partner with a local small scale independent grocer, Sunrise Orchards out of Smooth Rock Falls, ON. The goal of our Action Project was to create « HOME Pails » (Healthy Options Made Easy), a bi-weekly pail of fresh produce that is similar in nature to Hello Fresh where customers are offered a pail every other Monday at a very reasonable price. The produce varies depending on the week, market availability and customer requests.


Students found inspiration to create HOME Pails when we were discussing the rising cost of food, more specifically the cost associated with healthy, wholesome food. We, here at KDHS, already have a variety of different hydroponic farms used to grow fresh collard greens and herbs. The students thought it would be neat to see if we could grow an amount of food that could then be added to a pail of fresh produce of other in-season, local options that could be supplied by a small family run grocer in a nearby community. Teachers led discussions about our current meat-based diets and how it can be unsustainable in addition to questioning why fresh food is expensive in relation to processed food. As a group we decided that it would be important to offer to families in our communities a pail of produce that was fresh, where nothing included was processed and to ensure families could identify / connect with food that’s healthy. Since beginning, our customers are always very pleased with the options we have provided through HOME Pails. Some customers even complained that they were getting too much produce for the price they paid and that we may consider a smaller portion for people who were single or had smaller families. As such we adapted to our client needs and decided to offer portion pails which are half the size of our original HOME Pails at a reduced price. The students from the STEP and STARS classes who are responsible for ordering and preparing the HOME Pails take pride in offering their customers the highest quality of produce. They have learnt to select produce that they see fit for their customers and have been in the habit of setting aside produce that may be aesthetically unpleasing or they deem unfit for distribution. The students have also learnt not to waste any food and we have used unfit apples and pears to make dessert to serve to students. This resulted in a class discussion about the amount of food waste in the current food system and the unreasonable demands of consumers for produce that is ‘perfect ‘. Students have been very engaged throughout the year, working on this very unique project.

HOME Pails is extremely important for the community of Kapuskasing because here in remote Northern Ontario we have some unique geography that results in potential food insecurity. We live along the highway 11 corridor where we have a single access point and should anything happen, such as road closures due to winter storms or a catastrophic weather event resulting in one of the many bridges along the route washing away, we would be presented with a very difficult situation. We like to show the students of our programs the importance of food sovereignty and how to grow a variety of food in a variety of ways. We grow food indoors using hydroponic systems in a climate controlled environment. We teach students how to start growing food from seed, how to care for plants until they reach maturity and are ready to be harvested. The HOME Pails project allows for our programs to continue sustainably funding ongoing maintenance of our hydroponic grow units, the purchase of seeds and substrate to be used for growing and our continued building of a school food forest in our light court which currently has a mature apple tree, immature pear trees, a couple of haskap bushes, crabapple trees, and a strawberry patch. The school light court also has an off-grid, solar powered hydroponic greenhouse used to grow tomatoes and peppers throughout the summer. The HOME Pails project is a spin-off of the well established Food for Thought – Sustainable Urban Farming project which is a project-based learning experience that teaches student’s skills towards food sovereignty.

Reflection & Celebration

As a whole the HOME Pails project was a success. Those families who participated in the initiative routinely commented that the produce was of exceptional variety, quality and quantity. The program achieved its goal of offering healthy options to families interested in the service and it has become self-sustaining. As part of the service we offered, we charged a $30 fee to participate in our by-weekly pail. There were weeks where we barely made any money and others where we would make up to $5. In total we were able to offer the HOME Pails twelve times throughout the year. The receipt from Sunrise Orchards that I have provided in the following page of the report is just one example of a very typical week. As such we would have spent over $3600 just in fresh produce to run the program. We created a separate account where we have enough money to pay for our order of produce but also to pay for the upkeep of the school hydroponic units.

Students were engaged throughout the process, from the completion of the LSF workshops on climate change to the selection of plant varieties and the planting of the trees and shrubs. Although most of them will not see the final result when these trees start fruiting and provide to the school, they will have the opportunity to pick and eat some of the berries that are already fruiting. In fact students have been enjoying the strawberries and rush to class to pick the ripe berries before their peers get to them. It is going to be an absolute honour to have these students return to the school for future anniversary celebrations and see the fruit of their labour (all puns intended). It is also a lesson for the staff and students of the school, that these kinds of projects take time and that a healthy, sustainable future requires work now that they may not entirely see the outcome or benefits immediately. I can’t wait to see this edible forest mature and provide for the school for decades to come. We are beyond grateful to the LSF for this unique and engaging opportunity.

1. No Poverty
2. Zero Hunger
3. Good Health and Well-Being
10. Reduced Inequalities
11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
12. Responsible Consumption and Production
13. Climate Action
17. Partnerships for the Goals
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