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How a fresh idea helped serve up healthier food in southeastern New Brunswick schools

School lunches have been a hot international topic over the past few years, including here in New Brunswick. Many schools still face challenges in providing staff and students with healthy, fresh meal options in their cafeterias. This was the case at École Blanche-Bourgeois School, that is, until Rachel Schofield Martin, Agente de développement communautaire, served up a fresh idea! What if the school cut ties with the large multinational company that had previously provided the school’s meals and looked a little closer to home for healthier options?

The timing was perfect: students were increasingly dissatisfied with food choices at the school cafeteria and the contract with the large multinational was about to come to an end. Sensing the opportunity to act, Rachel convinced school administrators not to renew the contract and set an entrepreneurial project into action.

An Entrepreneurial Cafeteria was born, and so began the search for new food suppliers. Rachel and her colleagues were amazed to discover just how many healthy food options were accessible locally. They engaged with local farmers, and now all meat is sourced locally with the exception of ham. The vegetables served at the school cafeteria are also fresh and local produce when possible. The cafeteria staff even extended the harvesting season by transforming some local vegetables for the winter months. The spaghetti sauce is no longer from a can, but made from fresh ingredients, some of which were grown by the students themselves in the school garden. The taste and quality of the food served has improved dramatically, the menu is healthier, and the prices have remained the same.

The project has also injected a wave of entrepreneurship into the school. Students are starting mini-businesses to sell healthy snacks during recess, for example. They write marketing plans in their French classes, perform cost/profit analysis in Math, etc. Teachers celebrate how this provides learning experiences to their teaching. Students and teachers can count on a wide variety of expertise coming from their communities to lend a hand.  The collaboration of community partners has been one of the successes of the initiative. They come in and share their knowledge on how to make business plans, financial loans, on nutrition values, gardening skills, etc.

School staff witnessed a higher level of engagement from students, improved behavior and a higher sense of belonging.

The project has become a huge wellness success story. In order to meet the demand of neighbouring communities and schools in the District scolaire francophone Sud, Le réseau des cafeterias communautaires (RCC), a non for-profit organization, was created in May 2013.   The Entrepreneurial Cafeteria concept is evolving through the RCC.  Le réseau des cafeterias communautaires is now managing the food service in 26 school cafeterias within the District scolaire francophone Sud.

With the collaboration of farmers and local entrepreneurs, healthier, locally sourced lunches are becoming a more common sight in the school cafeterias of Southeastern New Brunswick.

Feeling inspired?

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