February 13th, 2017
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MENU connected RFRK and five additional key foodservice innovators including; University of Toronto, School Lunch Association, Centennial College, Sodexo, and Farm to Cafeteria Canada to discuss nourishing the minds and bodies of Canadians.
How do we raise healthy eaters? Through advocacy and education! RFRK’s Founder, Lulu Cohen-Farnell, explores the challenges and opportunities of the school lunch hour in Canada.
“How many papers … or studies do we need to tell us that the way we feed kids in school doesn’t work? It’s just common sense really,” says Lulu Cohen-Farnell, the founder of Real Food for Real Kids.
Cohen-Farnell moved to Canada from Paris in 1999; and she noticed some big differences in the culinary culture. “Culinary traditions, learning about the pleasure of eating, social activity around eating … we grew up like that,” she says. “Our family was completely in tune with real food, making food, talking about food. We were taught food literacy, about cooking and ingredients. It was part of our culture.” When her son entered childcare in Canada, Cohen-Farnell was faced with a different reality.
In Canadian schools, healthy food programs are voluntary. Programs are dependent on the administration of an individual school instead of being part of a systemic approach to nutrition and food culture in schools. In many schools, 45-minute lunch breaks have been reduced to 20 minutes. “It has become about the ratio of kids to teachers-and supervision in lunchrooms costs more than at recess.” That’s if there still is a lunchroom; many Canadian students eat lunch in a classroom today.
Cohen-Farnell’s company, Real Food for Real Kids, is a leading healthy catering company for childcare centres, elementary schools and camps. The RFRK approach is designed around keeping prices affordable, the food options healthy and without compromising on deliciousness. RFRK serves meals and snacks, made from scratch, to over 15,000 children throughout the Greater Toronto Area every day.
How do we raise healthy eaters? Improve the public health system? Through education. Says Cohen-Farnell, we also “have to start telling stories through food again.” By embracing the lunch hour and nutrition in schools as an opportunity for learning, Cohen-Farnell believes that the effects will be far-reaching.
Through advocacy and education, through relationship-building with local suppliers and the cooperation of educational institutions and her fellow advocates in foodservice, Cohen-Farnell says that change is not only possible, but that we must change our attitudes and our education system when it comes to food, while kids are kids, in order to correct some of the greatest health and social challenges facing our society.
Ideas for Foodservice Operators
- Through great partnerships with suppliers and with planning, it is possible to prepare healthy foods well within budget.
Applied food culture: needs to be in the curriculum and part of our society in general.
As food professionals, we can lead the way by putting the health and well-being of students first.
Buying groups and centralized purchasing across school boards, as happens in other institutional settings, are a necessity.
We all need to become advocates for change. Cohen-Farnell contributes her knowledge and experience to reforming food policies and regulations in Canada.