A 2010 study by the Dietitians of Canada reported that well-nourished children are better prepared to learn, be active, and maintain a healthy lifestyle into adulthood. This places schools in a unique position to educate students about nutrition and health while also encouraging good eating habits.
In 2010 the Government of Ontario updated their School Food and Beverage Policy with new standards for the nutritional content of food and beverages sold in schools. The new policy breaks down food and snack offerings into three main categories:
Sell Most: 80% (or more) of food and beverages sold in schools must fall within the sell most category. These offerings have the highest nutritional value and lowest amounts of fat, sugar, and sodium.
Sell Less: 20% (or less) of food and beverage offerings in schools.
Not Permitted for Sale: foods and beverages that have high caloric content but little or no nutritional value.
By offering healthy foods and snacks through school cafeterias and vending machines students are given the opportunity to make healthy food choices. This new policy also helps to mitigate the rising incidences of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in children.
School boards are also doing their part by integrating food, nutrition, and health into their elementary and secondary school curricula. Unfortunately, appearances of these key words in the curriculum are sparse and vague. This has led private organizations to take the initiative in teaching students about the importance of food and nutrition. Many of these organizations work with schools and community members to create workshops and programs within the education system so that all students have the chance to learn about food issues.
In Toronto, organizations like FoodShare, The Stop, Green Thumbs Growing Kids, and Evergreen are working with the Ontario School Board and the Toronto District School Board to increase food literacy in schools. An innovative collaborative network is the Garden and Food Curriculum Working Group. Among their goals is to develop curriculum-linked activities that complement the Ontario school curriculum. The existence of these public-private partnerships, however, only highlights the fact that the school boards and government are not keeping up with the growing importance of food security and nutrition.
Organizations & Websites
Dieticians of Canada – nutrition resources from A to Z.
Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project – curious about the nutritional impact on her students, an American elementary school teacher blogs about eating lunch every day for a year in her school cafeteria.
Healthy Schools (Government of Ontario) – policies for making schools healthier places to learn and grow.
Eat Right Ontario – provides easy-to-use nutrition information to make healthy food choices easier.
Health Canada: Food and Nutrition – includes food guide, surveillance, labeling, safety, GMOs, legislation, and guidelines.
Ontario Eco-Schools – environmental education program for grades K-12 that helps students develop both ecological literacy and environmental practices.
Real Food for Real Kids – healthy and sustainable catering program for schools and childcare centres.
The Lunch Lady – nutritious hot lunch program in Ontario.
The Stop’s Sustainable Food Systems Education – hands-on educational activities that focus on food issues while directly supporting the learning goals of the Ontario curriculum.
Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes: A Cookbook for Preschoolers and Up – Mollie Katzen, Ann L. Henderson
Guide to Good Food: Student Activity Guide – Velda L. Largen, Deborah L. Bence, CFCS
And This Is My Garden – documentary by Katharina Stieffenhofer about school gardening in Northern Manitoba.
Alice Waters – California chef and school garden pioneer argues for food education.
Ann Cooper’s TED Talk – talks about the coming revolution in the way kids eat at school: local, sustainable, seasonal and even educational food.
Anya Fernald – discusses edible educations.
Jamie Oliver’s TED Talk – makes the case for an all-out assault on our ignorance of food.
Farm to School – connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers.