“Make Menus Matter” finds everything from salads to soda in New Brunswick schools

FREDERICTON (NB) – Dr Lynn Hansen and Vanessa MacLellan thanked parents today for their outstanding contributions to a campaign from doctors and dietitians called Make Menus Matter, an initiative borne out of the New Brunswick Medical Society’s ‘Care First’ plan.

“We’d like to thank the large number of parents who took time from their day to send us their children’s menu,” said Lynn Hansen, MD FRCPC, President of the New Brunswick Medical Society. “We couldn’t believe the variation in the 36 menus we saw. It seems the choices available to kids entirely depend on where go to school.”

“We’re excited to visit the Magnetic Hill School and deliver their prize, which was drawn at random, of a healthy lunch for one of their classes,” said Vanessa MacLellan, RD, Co-Chair of Dietitians in Action. “As per our commitment to parents, no names of parents who submitted a menu will be released – but a winning family has also been approached with their prize.”

The New Brunswick Medical Society 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.

“Dietitians are amazed by the variety in foods offered,” said Ms MacLellan. “While a great number of healthy foods were being served, there are clearly a number of schools who are flirting with contravening the province’s policy on what they can serve in their cafeterias.” Common examples include deep-fried foods, foods of “moderate nutritional value” being offered daily instead of rarely as per provincial policy, and more.

Equally of concern to doctors were the prices of food offered. “Where unhealthy foods were offered – sometimes against the rules – they were significantly cheaper than healthy choices,” said Dr Hansen. “While doctors get the idea that fries are cheaper to provide than tossed salad, we’d like to see an effort made to standardise prices for healthy and unhealthy foods.” This would enable all children to be able to afford a healthy choice, rather than have to spend more money to be healthy.

“We’re looking forward to meeting with the Minister for Education and Early Childhood Development and reviewing the opportunities for improvement we see,” said Ms MacLellan. “We recognise their commitment to review what we’ve found and we’ve seen plenty of good examples in the school system to build upon.”

The Care First plan released in September by the New Brunswick Medical Society foreshadowed the development of Make Menus Matter. Care First also called for mandatory gym classes through to graduation; stronger education on cooking and nutrition in our schools; and the promotion of ‘active classroom’ teaching techniques, which have been proven to improve test scores and health outcomes. These recommended initiatives in our school system are aligned with others for workplaces, hospitals, and nursing homes to help New Brunswickers live healthier lives.

NBMS Media Contact 506-458-8860

Make Menus Matter Facts and Figures

Number of menus received: 36
Number of public schools in the province: 313
Number of school Districts from which a menu was received: 7/7
Price of food: Typical “complete meal” price ranges from $4-5
Number of lunches seen: Approximately 600

How many menus had

Salads: 26/36 (mostly Caesar salads)
Grilled cheese: 17/36
Burgers: 34/36
Pizza: 35/36
Milk: 36/36

“Menu superlatives”

“Most appealing” lunch: Maple ham with mashed potatoes, turnip, and corn ($4.25)
Healthiest offering: Salmon filet with oven-roasted potatoes and vegetables ($4.25)
Least healthy offerings: Whole garlic fingers ($3.75), fries ($1.85), chips ($1.50)
“Most memorable” lunch: Scallop gratin with bread, drink, and dessert ($4)
“Most surprising” items: Slushies, bags mini Oreo ($1.25), alphabet soup, pop, chips
“Most New Brunswick” items: shepherd’s pie, vol au vent, maple-baked ham, fricot

Selected quotes from parents:

Founded in 1867, the New Brunswick Medical Society (NBMS) is the professional association representing all physicians in New Brunswick. It is a provincial division of the Canadian Medical Association. Its twin goals are to represent and serve physicians, and advocate for the health of New Brunswickers. Over a hundred New Brunswick doctors sit on our Board and Committees, representing the 1600 doctors in the province.

The New Brunswick Dietitians in Action (a network of Dietitians of Canada) is a newly formed group of dietitians working together to promote and foster a healthy food culture in New Brunswick. The purpose of this group is to act as a voice for the over 300 dietitians in New Brunswick and to increase the capacity of New Brunswickers to make healthy eating choices.