Ontario schools introduced some sweeping food changes to their cafeterias in 2010. The School Food and Beverage Policy forbade the sale of foods with “few or no nutrients, and/ or contain high amounts of fat, sugar or sodium.” Sounds like a good thing, right? Healthier food for kids helps them grow, think more clearly and do better in school. I give the move a ringing endorsement all round. The thing is, the changes have resulted in driving some kids out of the cafeteria altogether — and into nearby convenience stores and fast-food chains, where their business is received with open arms.

But can you blame the kids? After all, wasn’t it always cooler to not eat at the caf?

Well, the Peel District School Board has made a move to change that. The secondary school students of the PDSB, which represents 150 000 students from K to 12, have just held their 2nd annual Cooking Up Action challenge, in which students compete to create enticing menu items using local and sustainable ingredients. The winning recipes will even be added to the lunch menus at PDSB cafeterias in September 2012. Not bad.

The challenge is part of the School Food Action Coalition project, facilitated by Eco Source, a local environmental organization, in partnership with Chartwells, the PDSB foodservice supplier, and Peel Public Health.

In all, 55 teams competed this year, using local ingredients and complying with Ontario’s School Food and Beverage Policy to earn extra points. There were three winning recipes: Sweet Potato & Pear Soup and Blueberry Muffins from Clarkson Secondary School, and Chicken Penne from John Fraser Secondary School.

To make sure flavour, appearance and the joy of eating weren’t lost in the mix, PDSB students themselves sat on the final judging panel, along with reps from Peel Public Heath and Chartwells.

The goal of the challenge, says Stephanie Crocker, Associate Director of Eco Source, was to engage the students with food and provide a hands-on learning experience about local food and healthy eating. And of course, give some options at the caf that might just give the corner store  a run for its money.

Check out how the participants from last year did. I love these guys!

Cooking Up Action 2011 5:46 min.


Leave a Response