Students, staff and the community in Lion’s Head, Ontario, have said no to privatized low nutrition cafeteria services.
A private, for profit company ran the Bruce Peninsula District School (BPDS) cafeteria, but four years ago the school took back the operation. BPDS has 370 students from JK to grade 12. All of those students have access to one of the best cafeterias in the Ontario school system.
For $2.25 students can have the daily lunch special like a hot, healthy plate of mozza chicken quiche, sloppy joe, grilled cheese, shepherd’s pie, beef tetrazzini, all with veggies or salad. The lunch special used to be a hot dog or chicken burger with french fries without any salad or fruit and cost twice as much. Students can now get fruit salad or a smoothie for a dollar or a bowl of oatmeal muesli with fresh fruit for $1.25. Pieces of fruit cost a quarter. You will not find pop, chocolate bars, candy, french fries, hot dogs or any deep-fried food.
When the school stopped the privatization of food services, they got Antoinette Rauket to take over the operation of the cafeteria. Rauket was trained as a nurse and has experience working in the child care sector in Ontario.
During the transition from private and unhealthy to public and nutritious, Rauket got rid of the junk but kept hot dogs on the menu. But, Rauket says, “They were never sold. I put them in the garbage every day. I couldn’t give students a free hot dog. They didn’t want it.”
After two years of Rauket running the whole show, things had grown and additional staff was hired.
Parents, students and staff love the change and there is full community support. Parents realize that they can’t give their kids a better lunch for $2.25.
BPDS Principal Pat Cavan said the change to healthier food began slowly when the school took back the operation of the cafeteria.
“If you’re out to make profit, you’re going to sell french fries and candies and all those things,” says Cavan.
Students got behind the change almost immediately, especially the older students. Within a month, the high school student council voted to get rid of the pop machines they relied on to fund certain school activities. They simply determined that pop didn’t fit into the new food service. The change has rubbed off on students and now everybody is more conscious about what they eat, says Grade 11 student Mark Shearer.
“The first reaction was kids don’t eat it, and then it took off like crazy,” Rauket said.
Cavan has been talking to other schools and parent councils about the changes at BPDS, hoping that the trends of nutrition and publicly run cafeterias spread.
BPDS stands as a shining example of putting children, their health and public services before privatization and profits.