Red Deer school takes lunch from fried to fresh: Cafeteria renovation allows school to improve student eating habits

With the help of a $25,000 Hellmann's Real Food Grant, the newly renovated École Camille J. Lerouge School cafeteria is now serving nutritious lunch options to their students everyday. Celebrity chef Chuck Hughes was present to share two custom-made recipes with students and get them excited about eating meals made with real, simple ingredients. (CNW Group/Hellmanns)

  • Alberta School overhauls cafeteria kitchen and menu to provide nutritious food choices to students
  • Cafeteria upgrades powered by a $25,000 Hellmann's® Real Food Grant and menu inspired by celebrity chef Chuck Hughes
  • Hellmann's® announces additional $100,000 in Real Food Grants for like-minded community initiatives across Canada

RED DEER, AB, Feb. 13, 2012 /CNW/ - Do you worry about the food your child's school cafeteria serves? Parents and teachers at École Camille J. Lerouge School (ECJLS) school in Red Deer Alberta did, so they took drastic steps to create change including renovating the cafeteria kitchen and overhauling the daily menu to offer students more nutritious lunch options. The initiative was funded by a $25,000 Real Food Grant from Hellmann's® Canada.

At an event to celebrate the launch of the refurbished cafeteria today, students at the rural Alberta school received a surprise visit from celebrity chef and TV personality Chuck Hughes and a chance to try some of the new nutritious menu items. Representatives from the school's student-, parent- and teacher-led Real Food Council, and from the Hellmann's® brand, were also on-site to speak to the students about the importance of eating more real foods everyday.

"There is so much processed and pre-packaged foods when it comes to school lunches that it can often be difficult for even the most well-intentioned parents, who are busy balancing their work and family lives, to make healthy choices for their children," said Vanessa Darling, Grade 1 teacher and member of the ECJLS Real Food Council. "We have a responsibility to the parents in our community, and ultimately the students who attend our school, to provide lunch options that are nutritious and fresh whenever we can. The changes we have made here, with support from the Hellmann's® brand, will allow us to rise to that challenge and encourage parents to start utilizing our cafeteria more often and students to start eating more nutritiously."

Typical of many school cafeterias across the country, the old menu at ECJLS featured a limited selection of processed and pre-packaged foods that were simply reheated and served to students.  Feature menu items included pizza bagels; 'taco in a bag' made by adding ground beef, cheese, salsa and lettuce to a bag of nacho chips; and French fries on Fridays. Now students can look forward to a menu featuring daily made-from-scratch specials and more nutritious takes on old favourites like chicken fingers.

"The idea is not to take away the foods kids love, but make them with real, fresh ingredients," said Chuck Hughes who was on-hand to help serve up some of his nutritious menu creations. "People will be surprised at how adventurous kids are when it comes to food if it's prepared in fun and delicious ways. When I saw the old menu, my first reaction was not to get rid of cafeteria classics that kids love but rather to make awesome chicken fingers that are better for them too. Pretty soon they'll be asking their parents to prepare these nutritious versions at home."

The school's menu revisions are a work in progress, but already features healthier options like fresh wraps, soups and stir-fry with rice. The new kitchen appliances now allow cafeteria staff to prepare food from scratch on-site instead of warming prepared foods, and the school's deep fryer has been removed. Cafeteria staff plan to work with the student body on an ongoing basis to test new, nutritious menu items to develop a menu that both kids and parents will love.

"We're very excited to be able to support this school in their efforts to deliver nutritious and delicious lunch-options to their students as part of our Real Food Grants program," said Stephanie Cox, Senior Brand Manager for Hellmann's® brand in Canada. "We truly believe that the passion and initiative displayed at the École Camille J. Lerouge School can serve as an inspiration and model for other motivated communities across Canada."

More real food funds available
Committed to supporting community initiatives that are going the extra mile to connect kids with real food, Hellmann's® brand will be offering up another $100,000 in Real Food Grants in 2012. The grants will be issued in three phases - spring, summer and fall - to coincide with the growing seasons and allow for participation by a wider variety of groups throughout the year. Hellmann's® has also created a library of resources, including tip sheets, recipes, and inspiring case studies to help Canadians who are passionate about real food.  

"Through our Real Food Movement programs, we have helped to expose Canadian families and kids to the pleasure that comes from eating real food," says Cox. "In addition to funding community initiatives, we have also created real food resources, are facilitating conversations about food on our Facebook page and continue to work with Chuck Hughes to inspire more Canadians to join the Real Food Movement."

To apply for a Real Food Grant or to find out more about other Real Food Movement initiatives from the Hellmann's® brand, visit realfoodmovement.ca.

Canadians can also connect with Hellmann's® on Facebook at Facebook.com/HellmannsCanada to share ideas, inspiration and recipes.

About the Real Food Movement
Hellmann's® brand was founded on the principle of using real, simple ingredients - like eggs, oil and vinegar. This commitment to real ingredients is why Hellmann's® launched the Real Food Movement - a mission to help get more real food on Canadian tables by inspiring families to smell, taste, touch and learn about the pleasure that comes from eating real food. Canadians can join the real food conversation and learn how to eat real at www.facebook.com/HellmannsCanada.

About Unilever Canada
Unilever works to create a better future every day.  We help people feel good, look good and get more out of life with brands and services that are good for them and good for others.  Each day, around the world, we serve over two billion consumers. In Canada, the portfolio includes brand icons such as: Axe, Becel, Ben & Jerry's, Breyers, Degree, Dove personal care products, Hellmann's, Klondike, Knorr, Lipton, Popsicle, Q-Tips, Skippy, Slim-Fast, Suave, Sunsilk and Vaseline. All of the preceding brand names are registered trademarks of the Unilever Group of Companies. Dedicated to serving consumers and the communities where we live, work and play, Unilever employs more than 1,600 people across Canada.   For more information, visit www.unilever.ca

Image with caption: "With the help of a $25,000 Hellmann's Real Food Grant, the newly renovated École Camille J. Lerouge School cafeteria is now serving nutritious lunch options to their students everyday. Celebrity chef Chuck Hughes was present to share two custom-made recipes with students and get them excited about eating meals made with real, simple ingredients. (CNW Group/Hellmanns)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20120213_C2700_PHOTO_EN_10058.jpg

For further information:

Hilary Lawton
Harbinger Communications
416.960.5100/1.877.960.5100 ext.255
hlawton@harbingerideas.com