Key messages from “School Lunches: What’s on the Menu, Ottawa?”

School Lunches: What’s On the Menu, Ottawa?

Promoting healthy food in our schools, K to Grade 12

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Immaculata High School, 140 Main Street

Organized by the Ottawa Food Policy Council



Keynote Speaker: Pascale Messier, R.D., Ottawa Public Health Dietitian

School Food and Beverage Policy, P/PM 150

  • Nutrition Standards for Schools Committee (NSSC) formed by the Ministry of Education in 2008 to create a food and beverage policy to create healthier nutrition environments.
  • There is a need for a call to action due to the rising rates of obesity in younger populations and also due to the importance and link between nutrition and health growth and intellectual development.
  • The policy was implemented September 1st, 2011. All schools have to be in compliance by the beginning of the school year 2011-2012. Policy has been in place for just over 3 years, so it is still fairly new and schools are still adapting to the changes.
  • The policy applies to the school system and activities involving the students. It must be monitored by the school and monitoring should be ongoing.
  • Food and beverages sold at school must meet the standard criteria in order to be allowed for sale.
  • Beyond the PPM 150, schools have fun and innovative ideas to make healthy nutrition part of their environment and their everyday school life.


A Regional perspective: Laurie Dojeiji, Health Promotion Manager, Champlain CVD Prevention Network

  • A regional Healthy Schools collaboration emerged in 2007 (housed at the Univ. of Ottawa Heart Institute; involves four public health units and nine school boards in Eastern Ontario as well as other community partners, such as Heart and Stroke, Green Communities Canada, and others).
  • A key milestone was the signing of our Champlain Declaration in April 2009, formalizing the commitment to work together to create physically active, healthy eating environments in the 500+ schools in our region.
  • Having a common vision – something that grounds us all in shared direction of what we what to achieve – has proven to be a powerful enabler of change.
  • It afforded us a mechanism to explore meaningful opportunities to collaborate – i.e. “what can we better to do together”.
  • Our initial efforts centered on the development of shared tools & resources, accessible to all, to support the implementation of the then-new PPM 150, as well as a broader lens on nutrition environments. We co-developed and co-hosted (with public health and school boards) a series of nutrition workshops; we developed tangible tools to support implementation efforts (e.g. tip sheets for healthy fundraising alternatives, for non-food classroom rewards; sample compliance letters for use with your catered lunch providers; among others); and our partnerships affords us the ability to share ideas and learnings across and between school boards.
  • The Declaration has also proven to be an effective lever for change – for example, enhancing partnerships between school boards and public health, and helping to bring provincial policies & programs (such as the Foundations for a Healthy School framework and PPM 150) to life at the regional level.


A Teacher perspective: Sally Collins, High School Teacher, Lead on the Healthy Eating Program, Norman Johnston Alternate Program


A student perspective: Samuele-Lyn  LaRocque, G12 Student, Student Representative on the Healthy Eating Working Committee

Norman Johnston is a high school primarily for at-risk youth. Last year, we received a grant from the Ministry of Education to encourage students to grow, make, and eat real food. Below is a summary of our initiatives:

-we created a foods room; now students are always cooking and feeding other hungry students in the school

-students built a raised garden

-we hosted healthy eating events

-leadership students ran events with healthy food

-outdoor education students will be making food for their trip

-chefs come in or we take students to them

-students went to a three day healthy eating camp

-students competed to design a healthy eating hoodie

-students decorated plates to remind them to eat more vegetables

-we bought hydroponic gardens

-healthy eating teachers received professional development

We can continue next year because most initiatives were low cost and the infrastructure can be maintained with regular school budget. Most importantly, students and teachers are excited about healthy eating.


An administrative perpective: Christopher Mes, Principal, Immaculata High School, Co-chair of Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) Healthy Eating & School Funds Committee



  1. From a system perspective, challenges are seen in the monitoring of said policy. As a school Board, we have in place compliance letters for schools, and for community food suppliers, such that they require specific compliance for items within PPM 150 prior to approval to supply food for schools.
  2. As for secondary schools, the food services are centrally determined; therefore one food supplier represents all schools. Restrictions have reduced that amount of school revenues.
  3. Students find alternatives to eating healthy at school (fast food services located in and around the schools).
  4. Challenges include students with limited budgets go elsewhere due to higher prices for fresh healthier foods…ie salads, etc.

Although these challenges are present, the following have occurred to encourage Healthy Eating:

  1. Cafeteria Service provides incentives and promotion for healthy eating. Ie: working with Chef Corban for healthy foods choices for students.
  2. OPH work with student to promote healthy eating at Lunch, yogurt smoothies etc.
  3. Our Hospitality classes focus on healthy eating. They cater/cook for school events, again with health eating in mind.
  4. Immaculata has an Eco-Garden.
  5. For the spirit of PPM 150, no fundraising regardless if it is sold or not, will happen with foods associated with chocolate, fat food.


A Parent perspective: Alejandra Dubois, Parent, School Council, École secondaire publique Gisèle-Lalonde

  • Parents have most of the responsibility when it comes to developing children and youth healthy lifestyles.
  • You are their model: your child will most probably try to imitate you.
  • Children develop their taste at a young age. Therefore, exposing them to healthy choices as soon as they start on solid food is the best investment.
  • Once they enter the school system, children choices will be influenced by their food environment and their peers. But you are preparing the lunch box!!!! Choose wisely.
  • As a parent, you can influence their food environment: get involved in school and community decisions!
  • Fundraising is an opportune area for parent involvement, especially in elementary schools.
  • The establishment of a school council in each school is mandatory in Ontario since 1997[1]. School councils are advisory bodies that may make recommendations to their principals or school boards on any matter.
  • You can choose to be a regular school council member or to be involved on specific workgroups or task forces, such as the nutrition committee. It does not exist? Just propose the creation of one and “recruit” other volunteers.
  • Start small, set concrete objectives and tap on existing resources to guide your work:


Ministry of Education:

Ottawa Public Health:

Just Food:

NTS online community:

Healthy schools 2020:

  • Look for ideas on non-food or healthier food fundraising activitie;, Nutrition Tools for Schools (NTS; Healthy Fundraising Fact Sheet; list of some local vendors which schools might find helpful.

[1] Ontario. Ministry of Education (2001) School Councils. A guide for members