Why Care About School Food?

Why Care About School Food?
By Jenny Osburn | The Union Street Cafe Cookbook | jennyosburn.com

A 2003 study showed that Nova Scotian students were 47% more likely to be overweight or obese if they ate lunch at school. Considering that another recent Nova Scotian study showed that nearly half of schools in Nova Scotia served food that did not meet the nutrition policy set out by the province, improving school food is an issue that cannot wait.

Sadly, at the same time, 21% of our children in the Annapolis Valley are food insecure and there is no strategy in place to nourish them with a healthy lunch at school.

It is estimated that only 5-10% of the food served at schools is grown or produced in Nova Scotia. That is a huge amount of money leaving our province that could better support our local farmers and food producers. When money is redirected to local food, it returns more than double to the local economy. This would benefit everyone who lives in the Annapolis Valley.

Multinational food processing companies who do not live in or benefit our communities have infiltrated our food system. They have convinced us that we don’t have time to cook and that their addictive products are somehow nutritionally superior to what we produce and cook at home. These products have been proven to cause disease, death, and human suffering, but these companies do not pay the healthcare bills or care about the misery they cause. We are losing our farms, our ability to cook, our good taste, and our health.

There is hope and inspiration in some excellent school food programs in the Valley and these could serve as a model for other schools who struggle to offer good food. Tasty local food is not more expensive than processed food, nor does it need fancy cooking to be appealing to students. We need to build capacity at schools to serve local vegetables, fruits, meats, and whole grains, and grow a distribution system to bring these foods to schools. A lunchtime salad bar model, where kids can choose their own items from a healthy array, is a fantastic way to serve these foods to kids and staff alike.

Good school food, available to every student without stigma, is proven to improve behaviour, attendance, grades, and graduation rates. This benefits everyone in the community now and into the future.

We have nearly 13,000 students in Annapolis Valley schools. Let’s make it a priority to change school food for the better!

Recipe: Turnip Fries

A lot of the students have been enjoying these on the Berwick School salad bar! Here’s how to make them at home.

1 turnip, peeled and cut into French fry shapes
1/4 C olive or vegetable oil
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large bowl, toss the turnip fries with the oil and salt. Spread on a large baking sheet in a single layer. Roast the turnip pieces for 20-25 minutes, until they have browned but still have some snap!

Images: Berwick School salad bar; Berwick School burger made from Getaway Farms beef on a Guy et Marie bun.

Jenny Osburn is the author of The Union Street Café Cookbook. Her second collaboration with Laura MacDonald of Deep Hollow Print, The Kitchen Party Cookbook, is now available! Find more recipes at jennyosburn.com and see what she’s up to on instagram at jenny.osburn