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Healthy, Local and Sustainable School Food Initiatives are Gaining Momentum!

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Montreal, September 30, 2016 – Over 100 participants gathered this week for the unveiling of the initial results of a school food mapping exercise for the Island of Montreal. The results were presented at a networking event in Montreal and in a follow-up webinar to Changing the Menu, a national conference aiming to put healthy, local, sustainable food on the minds and on the plates of all students. The National farm to school map initiated by Farm to Cafeteria Canada in 2015, now includes new partners in the Province of Quebec and the City of Montreal.

“It is so exciting to see Farm to School activity underway in Montreal and across the country. Step into any one of the schools on our map and you will see kids in gardens, kitchens, and in cafeterias lining up to get their kale!” Joanne Bays, National Manager Farm to Cafeteria Canada.

Over the past few months, the Collectif de la table des écoliers, with the help of Québec en Forme and in partnership with the Club des petits déjeuners, carried out a survey of organizations on the island of Montreal whose mandate is to get more healthy local foods on the plates and on the minds of students. Approximately 30 Montreal-based organizations active in 322 educational institutions (early education centres, daycares, elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities) registered 47 healthy eating program on the farm to school map. Through these programs 196,830 students have an opportunity to participate in a school garden, a cooking class, and/or school meal or snack program offering healthy local foods procured from nearby farms.

“This brings the number of participating institutions to 527 in the Province of Quebec, and 960 across Canada! In 2015 and 2016, a total of 327,511 Quebec students took part in healthy eating activities,” said with delight Marie Tellier, coordinator for the Collectif de la table des écoliers.

“Healthy eating begins at a young age and provides enormous leverage for preventing heart disease and promoting health. That’s why it was only natural for us to get involved with educational institutions,” stated Micheline Turnau, program manager, school nutrition, at the Heart and Stroke Foundation, one of the founding partners of these initiatives.

Emerging Synergies

The Montreal school food mapping exercise identified opportunities for synergies in 28 educational institutions. It also illuminated the fact that several organizations were offering simultaneous program without being aware of each other’s efforts!

“The impetus for the mapping project was threefold: 1) to discover ways to work more closely together, 2) to facilitate the sharing of best practices and 3) to amplify the impact of the various organizations working to make healthy, local and sustainable food available in educational settings,” said Murielle Vrins, project lead for institutional food at Équiterre.

Increased awareness has led to new collaborations, namely between the Club des petits déjeuners and the Tablée des Chefs.

“Given that we lead similar activities in the same schools, we are now exploring new alignments with the Tablée des Chefs. Since the Club des petits déjeuners values student engagement in schools, and the Tablée des Chefs organizes kitchen brigades to promote the development of cooking skills among these same client groups, we have a vested interest in aligning our expertise, for the benefit of all,” said Judith Barry, Club des petits déjeuners’s director of impact and sustainable development.

The potential for amplifying impact through collaborative work is evidenced in a recent project initiated by the Système alimentaire montréalais (SAM). In order to promote local and organic food in schools and daycares on the Island of Montreal, the SMA, in cooperation with Équiterre and the Lester-B.-Pearson School Board, and with the support of the Director of Public Health for Montreal, Québec en forme and the Quebec Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food, developed a school food fundraising project. This project involved raising funds through the sale of organic vegetable baskets sourced from local producers. Daycares extended the impact of the organic food basket fundraising project by engaging their students in cooking classes aimed at raising awareness, and enhancing skills around the preparation and consumption of these vegetables.

Valérie Toupin-Dubé, an avid promoter of healthy local food in educational institutions, winner of the 2015 Laure Waridel Bursary and instigator of École-o-camp, an agro-environmental educational toolkit for schools, also sees this mapping exercise as a useful tool for schools, teachers, and student committees. “It gives them a bird’s eye view of all the resources readily available to develop sustainable food and agriculture initiatives in the school setting.”, says Toupin-Dube

Farm to Cafeteria Canada, Equiterre, and their many partners extend an invitation to all daycares, schools, and universities in Canada to place their school food activities on the national Farm to School map. October is the perfect time to register those activities, given Farm to Cafeteria Canada is offering schools who complete a registration form an opportunity to be entered into a draw for 1 of 3 grants valued at $1500 to advance their Farm to School activity. Visit the Farm to Cafeteria Canada website today to register your school.

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For more information:

Dale Robertson
Media Relations / Équiterre
514-605-2000 /