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Changing the Menu: hundreds of experts are mobilizing for the first-ever Canadian conference on school food

Montreal, November 13, 2015 - 

More than 400 experts from across Canada and abroad are in Montreal today for Changing the Menu. Experts in areas as diverse as health, education, agriculture, food service, recreation, policy and research are coming together to organize for action around school food ─ and get even more healthy, local and sustainable food into the minds and onto the plates of students.

The conference, which takes place from November 12 to 14 in Montreal, puts forward a number of inspiring projects from across Canada, including many Quebec initiatives such as the Brigades Culinaires, the Kahnawake Diabetes Prevention Project and local procurement measures at the French Montreal School Board. The event is being organised by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, Farm to Cafeteria Canada and Équiterre.

Nutrition policies to promote healthy eating, food literacy, cooking classes, school gardens and local and sustainable food purchasing are all measures that can improve the health and life-long habits of students.

“ Eating well is one of the best things we can do for our health,” says Mary Lewis, VP Research, Advocacy and Health Promotion, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. “ Schools are an ideal setting to establish and promote healthy eating among children and youth. You are never too young to prevent heart disease and stroke.”

The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends that Canadians of all ages eat a healthy balanced diet that consists of a variety of natural/whole and minimally processed foods.

"There are multiple benefits to healthy, local and sustainable school food,” says Isabelle Saint-Germain, Senior Director of Équiterre. “Children who improve their eating also improve their learning. And when they eat local and organic foods, the whole food system wins."

Presenters include the Honorable François Blais the Quebec Minister of Education, Higher Education and Research who will speak Friday about government efforts to increase foods from Quebec in public institutions, including schools.

A living map of the emerging Canadian landscape of school food activities will be presented at this conference. To date some 700 schools and campuses report that they are engaged in activities to get more healthy local foods on the minds and on the plates of 675,000 students. More than half of these educational institutes have gardens or cooking programs. They estimate that they are purchasing more than 16 million $ in local food.

“This map offers an insightful snapshot of Farm to School activity underway in Canada. It not only illuminates the ways schools are engaging students in a holistic approach to bring the harvest to the cafeteria, it provides initial data about the impact on the local food economy" says Joanne Bays, National Manager Farm to Cafeteria Canada. "

The Changing the Menu conference is made possible thanks to the financial contribution of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of Quebec, the Système alimentaire montréalais (SAM), the Egg Farmers of Canada and. the partners of the Nourishing School Communities initiative. Nourishing School Communities is funded by the federal government through the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer’s Coalitions Linking Action and Science for Prevention program.

Follow the conference live on Twitter (#cmconf2015) and Facebook (Changing the menu)
The conference program is available here.

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About the Heart and Stroke Foundation
The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s mission is to prevent disease, save lives and promote recovery. A volunteer-based health charity, we strive to tangibly improve the health of every Canadian family, every day. Healthy lives free of heart disease and stroke. Together we will make it happen. Learn how at heartandstroke.ca.

About Équiterre
Équiterre helps build a social movement by encouraging individuals, organizations and governments to make ecological and equitable choices, in a spirit of solidarity. 
By its action, Équiterre wants to draw attention to the fundamental aspects of life. Eat, move, live, eat and gardening: vital needs, but also the means within reach of everyone to act responsibly and change the world one step at a time.

About Farm to Cafeteria Canada
Farm to Cafeteria Canada (F2CC) is the national organization leading the Farm to School movement in Canada. (F2CC) educates, builds capacity, strengthens partnerships, and influences policy to bring local, healthy, and sustainable foods into all public institutions.

For more information :

Dale Robertson
Relations médias, Équiterre
514 605-2000 / drobertson@equiterre.org

Micheline Turnau
Program Manager Changing the Menu, Heart and Stroke Foundation
613-857-0491 / mturnau@hsf.ca