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Metro Moncton schools getting a local food boost

Thursday, August 29 2013

Partnership will see more locally produced food at 20 school cafeterias

BY GINABETH ROBERTS
TIMES & TRANSCRIPT STAFF
Thursday, August 2013

Students attending several schools in the Francophone South school district will get to bite into fresh and local meals when they head back to school next week.

Really Local Harvest, a co-operative of about 30 farms in southeastern New Brunswick, the school district and a newly formed non-profit organization, Réseau des cafétérias communautaires,have teamed up to provide students with nutritious and healthy locally produced food.

Julien Robichaud, director of Réseau des cafétérias communautaires, which is responsible for the management, cooking and serving of the food, said the program started out small, when they began operating a school in Kent County. This year they will be in 20 cafeterias, serving 8,000 students across the district.

“We’re going to have everything from meat to vegetables that will be seasonal and year-round,” Robichaud said. “We’re managing all operations within the cafeteria,” he added. “We built the menus.”

Menus will be flexible enough to allow for the introduction of seasonal vegetables when the harvest allows, he said. Schools will receive deliveries on a weekly and bi-weekly basis, Robichaud said. Sourcing local produce, like carrots or potatoes, is at times a slow and difficult process, but the distribution process can be even more difficult. That’s where Really Local Harvest came in.

Mathieu D’Astous, executive director of Really Local Harvest, is responsible for the sourcing and supply of the produce as well as helping out with some educational activities. “The schools really want to use the cafeteria as a classroom,” he said.

Through this partnership, both parties hope students will work with local producers and have several learning experiences in the food world, be encouraged to purchase local products, develop
an entrepreneurial spirit and contribute to the local economy.

Food distribution has already begun and will increase throughout the year as the program grows. The initiative kicked in when the school district’s contract with its former food service provider did not allow staff access to the kitchen for educational activities with students, Superintendent Monique Boudreau said.

Boudreau welcomes the supply agreement between Really Local Harvest and Réseau des cafétérias communautaires, which will provide much local produce to be used in cafeteria meals. “Students will have access to meals prepared with high-quality ingredients (that are) nutritious and grown closer to home,” she said. This year, food services at 20 schools in the district will be benefiting from the farms involved with Really Local Harvest.

All schools that formerly had food service contracts with Chartwells will now be served by Réseau des cafétérias communautaires staff. These schools are l’Odyssée, Le Mascaret, Mathieu-Martin, Carrefour de l’Acadie, Sainte-Thérèse, Anna-Malenfant, Abbey-Landry, Champlain, Amirault, St-Henri, Ste-Bernadette, Le Sommet, Marée Montante, Mgr. Franqois-Richard, Soleil-Levant, Blanche-Bourgeois, Grande-Digue, Notre-Dame, Calixte-F-Savoie and Saint-Paul.

Réseau des cafétérias communautaires has hired dietitians to develop interesting and nutritious menus for students, and food prices will remain essentially the same as in past years.

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