A Student Led Cafeteria Revolution In OntarioTue 12 Aug 2014
Story by The Peel Action Team for Health
Create a recipe for change… This was the goal for students who participated at the first Peel Student Food Expo on October 17th, 2013.
In fall 2011, the Ontario School Food and Beverage Policy introduced nutrition standards for foods sold to students in schools, to improve the food environment and promote healthy eating. However, some students felt they were left out of the decision-making; the new food tasted bland, and was too expensive.
So an idea to host a school-wide event where students have an opportunity to vote for great tasting, student-created food to be offered at their school cafeteria came to life. This led to the creation of the Peel Action Team for Health (PATH) student committee. PATH wanted to give students back choice, while demonstrating how healthy food can taste great.
PATH partnered with Peel Public Health and created the 2013 Peel Student Food Expo where 233 staff & students from 36 Dufferin-Peel Catholic (DPCDSB) & Peel District School Boards (PDSB) secondary schools attended to showcase their culinary skills, discover healthy and tasty food options and vote for food they want to see in their cafeterias. Students created fifty School Food and Beverage Policy compliant recipes, twenty-five of which received a 5 star rating. Students want to see these recipes added to their school cafeteria menus.
PATH wanted students at the event to leave with the tools to empower them to make the school cafeteria a place they want to be, so they created the Cafeteria Revolution toolkit. The “recipe cards” in this resource outlined innovative ideas (with instructions) to help students take action towards improving the food, physical and social environments of their school cafeterias. Some activities featured in the toolkit include: harnessing students’ artistic talents to design a graffiti wall or mural; hosting lunch time cafeteria karaoke, talent-show or dance-off events with healthy snack prizes; and playing student-selected music, videos or movies on designated days.
Finally, the event saw inspiring talks from community leaders. Grant Gordon, a marketing guru of Key Gordon Communications Inc. gave an informative talk about how companies market food specifically to youth. Paul Finkelstein, a teacher and chef, and Joshna Maharaj, a chef, writer and activist, connected with the audience about their passion for cooking, making references to how the food culture has transformed since they were children and how students can be advocates for change to improve their school cafeterias.
The 2013 Peel Student Food Expo started an important conversation about changing the school cafeteria food environment, but most importantly, it brought student voice to the table and created opportunities for students to inspire each other, become leaders in their schools and create a recipe for change.
A Cafeteria Revolution Campaign
Building on the successes of the Peel Student Food Expo the Cafeteria Revolution campaign enabled students to be active participants in the planning and implementation process of enhancing the school cafeteria environment. The goal of this project is to make each school cafeteria a place where students: want to be, are exposed to an environment which promotes a healthy eating lifestyle and have access to nutritious and delicious Peel Student Food Expo-inspired food on cafeteria menus.
The Cafeteria Revolution Showcase on May 13th, 2014 brought together 215 youth from 40 Dufferin-Peel Catholic (DPCDSB) & Peel District School Boards (PDSB) secondary schools (18 DPCDSB, 22 PDSB), to share successes and challenges, and inspire others with ideas to continue a revolution in their school cafeterias. From “stirring” in some fun activities like movies, music, and karaoke in the cafeteria; to “kneading” the physical environment with art work or murals; and of course, adding an abundant serving of tasty healthy snacks like fresh fruit smoothies to their cafes or new dishes from the Peel Student Food Expo recipe book; students shared how they have the recipe to change.
The Cafeteria Revolution will continue in the 2014-2015 school year as the Ministry of Education has provided additional funding to support schools to continue their mission to create a supportive environment for healthy eating.
About the author: The Peel Action Team for Health (PATH) student committee was created to provide students an opportunity to have a stronger voice for change to support health and wellness in school communities across Peel Region. In partnership with Peel Public Health, PATH plays an integral role in representing students in the planning and implementation of healthy eating initiatives like the Peel Student Food Expo and the Cafeteria Revolution Showcase- Recipe for Change Initiative. Together, we hope to engage youth to create an environment that supports healthy living, where the healthy choice is the easy choice.
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