Introducing Nicole Hambleton, Ontario Lead for Farm to School

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Author: Sustain Ontario

Posted: February 17, 2021

Categories: GoodFoodBites / News from Sustain Ontario

Since 2016 Sustain Ontario has partnered with Farm to Cafeteria Canada to deliver the Farm to School: Canada Digs In! initiative. This partnership has seen 40 grants of up to $10,000 given to schools in Ontario to establish and implement farm to school salad bar programs.

We would like to welcome Nicole Hambleton to the Sustain team. Nicole will take on the role of Ontario Lead for Farm to School where she will be supporting the Ontario grantee schools as well as other schools and organizations who are implementing farm to school programming in the province.

Welcome, Nicole!

A bit more about Nicole:

“I’m thrilled to be joining Sustain Ontario’s Edible Education Network as Ontario Lead for Farm to School. I have worked in the sector of food and nutrition since graduating from Ryerson University with a degree in nutrition (Dietetics) in 1999. Since 2014 I have been involved in local food, farming, and education in the Headwaters Region as a consultant, then co-coordinator of Headwaters Food and Farming Alliance’s (HFFA) Farm to School programs. In this role I helped establish Local Food Club – a school centred, monthly, hyper-local meal in a bag program; Farmers in the School – real farmers in classrooms teaching kids about local food and farming; and Family Food Classes where Dietitians, Chefs, and Farmers shared knowledge and cooked with kids! I was also one of the team members supporting the establishment and implementation of Primrose Elementary School’s 2016 Farm to School Salad Bar Grant. Through these programs I have learned how to navigate school boards, establish and maintain relationships with farmers and local food producers, and think creatively to promote the importance of food education and local food procurement in schools. I enjoy making food education fun and have been known to masquerade as “Freggie” at local farmers’ markets!

I’ve worked on an organic farm, and have hosted numerous workshops and community discussions on food literacy, healthy eating and cooking.

I hold listening, collaboration, and perspective-taking deep in my heart, and as such, have been teaching Roots of Empathy in schools since 2012. Roots of Empathy is an international, evidence-based classroom program that aims to increase social/emotional competence and empathy in children ages 5-13. Roots of Empathy has worked hard to turn its 27 week in-person program into a 5 lesson online experience that helps children acknowledge and honour their experiences with Covid. I’ve recently had to learn how to navigate Google Classroom and communicate in a heartfelt manner through technology.

I’m a passionate believer in the power of food to connect and bridge gaps. Similar to the way plant diversity in a market garden contributes to biodiversity of the soil, I believe sharing resources, honouring lived experience, and advocating for sustainable food systems makes us all grow stronger.

I’m excited by this opportunity and what my unique skills and the support of the team at HFFA can bring to Sustain’s Ontario Edible Education Network.

I’m the mother of two teenage daughters, a Bernese Mountain dog, and two cats. In my spare time I love to hike, hug trees, cook and dance (usually in the kitchen while cooking). I look forward to growing, learning, and listening to all of you.”

Nicole is joining the Sustain team through a partnership between Sustain and Headwaters Communities in Action (HCIA), a registered charity that hosts a number of citizen-driven projects and multi-sector collaborations including Headwaters Food and Farming Alliance and the Primrose Salad Bar Program. Sustain is excited to build this partnership and work with HCIA to support farm to school efforts across the province.

If you’d like to connect with Nicole you can reach out to her at farm2school@sustainontario.ca.