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Potential to Discover: How summerlunch+ is Discovering Foods Through Food Rescue

March 1, 2018

By Olivia Cupido, MHSc(c), RD. Olivia is passionate about teaching children about healthy living and helping them establish healthy relationships with food.

Each week when the Second Harvest truck pulls up, we have no idea what we’ll get. Will it be something we like preparing and eating? Will we be able to use it up? As the back of the truck opens up to reveal bags and boxes of different rescued foods, we see potential and we’re ready to discover. 

At summerlunch+, an organization dedicated to providing healthy lunches to students all summer long, we’re passionate about food rescue and reducing food waste. In partnering with Second Harvest this past summer, we joined the fight against both food waste and hunger.

While it may seem intimidating or overwhelming to make decisions and create menus quickly, we’re using this as an opportunity to discover and explore foods. How can we use this food in a new way? How can we expose the students to something new? The possibilities are endless with food and it keeps each day exciting. 

After quickly making decisions about what we can use and how we will use it, our staff and volunteers get busy in the kitchen. Food rescue has allowed us to get creative and expand our culinary comfort zones. As a result, we’re able to help the students we feed do the same. Each day at lunch is an opportunity for them to learn and discover. As we serve lunch, we talk to all the students about the foods we’re eating; their colours, flavours, ties to different cultures, and nutritional qualities.  We’ve found that the best way to get children excited about eating healthy foods is by letting them get their hands dirty and do it themselves. By serving ‘make it yourself’ meals with many components for them to mix and match, we simply guide them on their own food explorations.

If you’re wondering how you can incorporate food rescue and food waste reduction into your community organization, here are some tips:

1. Be Flexible: While having a menu plan for weeks in advance is helpful, don’t be too committed to it. Be open to making changes as necessary, even if it is last minute.

2. Use Skeleton Recipes: Plan meals with very few specific ingredients that allow you to use any combination of vegetables. For example, we love make your own taco days because no matter what kinds of vegetables we get, we can always make a delicious taco. All you really need is taco shells and salsa!

3. Keep Delicious and Consistent Dressings: We are always making our favorite dressings and sauces because they taste delicious with any vegetable we want to use up. They are a great way to make sure everyone will love whatever we make. Plus, it ensures that as we introduce new foods, at least one aspect of the meal will be familiar.

Olivia Cupido is a registered dietitian and recent graduate of the Master of Health Science and Nutrition Communication at Ryerson University. summerlunch+ is a non-profit that recognizes the gap left each summer by school nutrition and meal programs. We are dedicated to providing healthy lunches and nutrition education to children during the summer months at camp. 


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