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Make Menus Matter

Make Menus Matter originated from a simple question: What are your kids eating at school?

New Brunswick’s doctors and dietitians partnered up to find out what options are available to students sent to school with lunch money. In late 2013, we asked parents to send a photo of their child’s cafeteria menu. The menu was then compared against provincial nutritional guidelines.

Our call for menus was enthusiastically answered. We received 36 menus from parents at schools around the province. At least one menu was received from every school District – from moms and dads, dietitians and doctors, in both languages, from cafeterias run by large corporations to local cooks in the community. Some followed the provincial policy, and some didn't – but for every unhealthy menu we found, we saw a standout example in another region. In short, what your kids were eating depended a lot on where you lived.

We revisited the project in 2015. In its second run, the project took place over the course of three weeks and had a broader focus. Dietitians analyzed the content of menus from more than 100 schools around the province to determine how well they aligned with provincial nutritional guidelines. Parents were also invited once again to share photos of their child’s school menu with the Medical Society if they so desired.

After compiling and analyzing the contents of over 100 school menus, we released our findings to the public in the second week of the project. The analysed menus represented 41 per cent of all schools in the province. Of them, 27 per cent met provincial nutritional guidelines, and 54 per cent did not. It was not clear whether the remaining menus met guidelines. 

The project’s third week highlighted made-in-New-Brunswick success stories of exceptional cafeteria offerings, compiled into a “Where to Eat in New Brunswick” school cafeteria guide. These examples provide us inspiration and the observation that some schools in New Brunswick are leading the country in nutrition – and we should ensure all of our schools are following their lead. It can be done!

The primary goal of Make Menus Matter is to raise awareness about the wide variation in our school cafeteria food. Some schools offer excellent local, organic, and healthy options – but others still offer unhealthy foods that were to have been removed some years ago under provincial policy. By examining menus from many schools, doctors and dietitians hope to start a conversation and spur change towards more nutritious options.

The project takes cues from the Department of Education’s Policy 711, which bans the sale of foods with minimum nutritional value in cafeterias, vending machines and fundraisers.

Learn more about Policy 711: 

Healthier Foods and Nutrition in Public Schools 
What does Policy 711 Say - A Guide for Parents/Guardians

Learn more about Make Menus Matter:

2015

Where to Eat in New Brunswick Schools
New Brunswick doctors, dietitians recognize exceptional school food with 'Where to Eat' guide
Menu Assessments
New Brunswick doctors, dietitians release school menu analysis 
New Brunswick doctors, dietitians to expand analysis of school menus, ask parents for help 
New Brunswick’s doctors and local dietitians seeking input for new menu initiative 

 2013
Additional Background
"Make Menus Matter" visits Magnetic Hill School
"Make Menus Matter" finds everything from salads to soda in New Brunswick schools
New Brunswick's doctors, dietitians calling for school menu check-up
Letter to parents and guardians