All parents know the trials of instilling an innate love of, say, cruciferous vegetables, in just one small child. And that’s what makes the College’s collaborative effort to to lead the revamp of UCC’s entire food culture especially impressive.
Armed with a huge passion for healthy eating and a knack for getting the job done, Joannah Lawson, mother of Alexander in Year 1 and Tristan in Foundation Year, and a registered nutritionist, created the Upper School nutrition committee in 2012. Acting in an advisory capacity to Aramark and the College in an effort to promote healthy choices, the group has made waves this school year. From eradicating processed food in the upper dining hall, to offering hemp protein shakes in the lower one, the impact of the committee’s work is appreciated several times daily by the entire community. (The nutrition committee worked closely with Aramark staff, faculty, parents and students to ensure healthier food.)
Phase one, started this past September, was to analyze all ingredients on the Upper School menu, replace processed foods with great new recipes and improved overall ingredients, including starting all soups, salads dressings and sauces from scratch. House-roast turkey and beef replaced deli meats, among other initiatives.
“It’s awesome working with someone who is as passionate, knowledgeable and dedicated to healthy, natural food as Mrs. Lawson,” says Marco Kulainis, Aramark director. “We understand there’s a significant link between nutrition and health, as well as academic and athletic performance. With Mrs. Lawson’s input we’re making changes we believe are in the best interest of the entire school community.”
The second phase was about student engagement, educating them about the impact of food on performance. To that end, initiatives have included inviting Dr. Mike Evans to speak at morning assembly, the dynamic health expert, media personality (and brother of Upper School nurse Avia Peacock). Lawson has also met with the board of stewards to get feedback and, of course, the committee has 100 per cent endorsement from both Parents’ Organizations. (Lawson started working on the Prep’s healthy eating committee in 2010.)
“All this work stems from a desire to make sure boys are fueled with the nutrition they need,” says Lawson.
Moving forward, the committee hopes to make further inroads, and Lawson herself is working with the University of Toronto to embed nutrition curriculum into the medical school and to create the new Centre for Child Nutrition, Health and Development.
In the meantime, UCC is fortunate to reap the benefits of her expertise.
“People are surprised when they see how healthy eating and great taste can converge,” she says. “It’s so rewarding when faculty, staff and students comment on how much better everything tastes.”
Photo: Joannah Lawson and son Tristan enjoy the mother-son showing of Ravi Jain’s A Brimful of Asha, March 26 at the College.