November 2010 Community Meeting Notes – Food Literacy

Toronto Youth Food Policy Council

November 1st, 2010 Community Meeting on Food Literacy

On November 1st 2010, over 50 food-passionate Youth gathered at Metro Hall to discuss the existing policy barriers and emerging opportunities for the progressive development of nutritional literacy among Canadian Youth. The following document reflects the related policy positions of the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council’s Community, as discussed during our brainstorming session.

1. Food Literacy is both an important life skill and professional skill. Thus, Youth must be empowered by co- or extra-curricular learning enrichment opportunities including making use of high school coop programs, establishing student-run food services, organizing after-school cooking programs, working with Youth entrepreneurial clubs, creating and promoting summer/part time jobs in food, and encouraging school-farm partnerships and field trips to agricultural production sights.

2. School food procurement is an issue for many schools throughout Toronto and it is necessary for schools/Youth to be able to exert some influence over the purchasing decisions that are made including hiring food specialists to manage issues and menu options, working local sustainable food options into cafeteria contracts/bids, allocating more resources to pay for cafeteria infrastructure and offering healthy AND culturally appropriate food options.

3. The current food pyramid is outdated and often funded by special interests. Therefore alternative food pyramids should be promoted and enforced. Potential alternatives include vegetarian and multi-cultural food pyramids that are reflective of Toronto’s diverse population. Food pyramids should also promote Ontario produce in higher quantities.

4. Food issues should be taught through a variety of forums – the more connections Youth can draw between food and other subject areas, the more important food issues will be. Food system thinking must be re/imbedded into the curriculum.

5. Youth should be engaged with food issues outside of the classroom as well. Several ideas include creating an on-line database aimed at food related opportunities for Youth and organizing co-op programs, volunteer gardens, and school-run community centers.

6. School gardens are becoming an increasingly popular way to engage Youth in food activism.  In addition to the nutritional and social benefits of school gardens, Youth can gain valuable life skills including ownership and financial responsibility.

7. Involving Youth in the food preparation and cooking process is key to getting them to recognize the profound relationship we have with the fuel that enters our bodies and where it comes from.  If we want a more satisfying lunch and food learning experience for Youth, it is important for Youth to teach other Youth.  Parents and caregivers, especially those already volunteering at the schools in lunch preparation, can maintain continuity between school and home by acknowledging importance of real food and knowing how to prepare it.

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