A Year of Better School Food

A Year of Better School Food
By Jenny Osburn | The Union Street Cafe Cookbook | jennyosburn.com

2019 was truly a Year of Better School Food in the Annapolis Valley!

Through incredible grassroots efforts by administrators, cafeteria and health workers, and dedicated parents, at least ten Valley schools added salad bars and are working on healthier options on their menus.

Central Kings Rural High School made room for a giant new salad bar and replaced many of their highly processed menu items with real home cooking, perhaps the first high school in Nova Scotia to do so.

Berwick and District School initiated a pay-what-you-can program so all students can access a healthy lunch without stigma or shame, regardless of their ability to pay.

For years I wondered why in hell the school menus that came home were full of junk and flouted provincial nutrition policy. Like many parents, I suspected that if schools could make the switch to real food, more parents would order lunch!

Now that we know this to be true, should we be forced to rely on the efforts of volunteers and champions to carry this out? No way! It’s far too important. We need support from all levels of government to sustain this critical work.

What’s at stake?

-Healthy food for all students, no matter where they go to school.

-Reduced health care costs as we teach our children to enjoy food that will nourish them for a lifetime.

-Improved education outcomes and higher graduation rates.

-A true, responsive effort to break the cycle of poverty experienced by too many Nova Scotians.

-Stemming the yearly flow of millions of plastic forks and styrofoam plates into our landfills.

-Real dollars invested in supporting the crucial agricultural industries that feed us.

-Better working conditions for the hundreds of Nova Scotians, nearly all women, who perform the highly skilled but pitifully undervalued work of feeding our students.

There was a time when parents paid the cost of bussing their kids to and from school. We recognized that this was inequitable, and made school transportation universal. It’s time to do this for school food like our neighbouring province of PEI.

It’s time to pay our cafeteria staff as we do all other workers in education. It’s time to ensure that all students can enjoy a healthy meal brimming with the best of Nova Scotian food served without a side of shame.

Jenny Osburn is a chef, cookbook author, and school food advocate. Join her Facebook group Better School Food Nova Scotia!