Teens Storm the Caf

By / Food / May 16th, 2011 / Like

Recently, I read about a couple of high schools in Mississauga, Ontario in which students took over the cafeteria. It was all part of the Peel School Food Action Coalition’s “Cooking Up Action!” Menu Challenge which encouraged students to create a healthy menu focussing on local ingredients. What a great way to give teens the opportunity to take control of their diets.

Although it’s improved over the last few years, school cafeterias still tend to feature unhealthy choices. It’s a no-brainer, really. From the school board’s point of view, selling nutritionally inadequate food is easier on the budget. Serving fresh fruits and veggies, lean meats, and unprocessed food costs more. Locally-grown ingredients often cost more than their mass-produced or factory-farmed equivalents. On the books as well is the cost of hiring people to cook fresh and healthy alternatives. My high school’s caf (as we used to call it) was small and replete with packaged doughnuts, muffins and the ever-present oniony-egg or tuna salad sandwiches. At the end of the hallway, just past the cashier and just before entering the eating hall was the microwave. It was a luxury, we all thought, to nuke one’s chocolate chip muffin in that microwave so that the centre became warm and gooey. How far we’ve come!

The top Menu Challenge winner was Applewood Heights Secondary School. Their winning menu featured local ingredients in the form of a butternut squash soup and a cauliflower mash and herbed Ontario chicken. They’ve also picked up $1000 for their team plus a visit to a local farm for a true local food experience and their dishes will be served in Peel District School Board cafeterias this fall.

Good for them. And good for the Ontario Government’s School Food and Beverage Policy that emphasizes offering healthy menu items to students.


Rosemary Mantini has always loved words. When she isn't working as the Associate Editor at Tidings Magazine, she's helping others achieve their writing dreams, and sometimes she even relaxes with a good book and a glass of wine.

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