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This article was published 20/9/2011 (3325 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It started with a mother’s visit to her son’s classroom, and has evolved into a province-wide initiative to help families pack more nutritious, sustainable food in their children’s lunches.
Adrienne Percy, a St. Vital resident, said she was volunteering at her son’s school last year, and decided to join him for lunch.
"I just kind of sat back and observed what the kids were eating," she recalled. "There were a few things that made me really sad as a parent."
At least 90% of the lunches included some processed foods, while nearly 70% were made up entirely of processed foods, she said.
Inspired by what she saw, Percy approached her son’s principal, offering to help.
He suggested she write a monthly article for the school’s newspaper that would include a recipe.
Percy said she considered the idea, then decided something bigger was needed.
"Why would we just do it for one school? There’s so many opportunities here," she said.
The mom approached Food Matters Manitoba — a charity that aims to promote healthy, sustainable and fair food for all — and together, they came up with Dig In Manitoba.
The project, which can be accessed at www.diginmanitoba.ca, is an online resource that allows parents to access and share recipes and advice on cooking healthy meals — and especially packed lunches — for their children.
The website also has resources for teachers, and schools can sign up with Dig In Manitoba and have a monthly article and recipe sent to them for their newsletter.
"We just wanted to make it very easy for people," Percy said.
There’s even a weekly recipe planner so parents can get organized, and a list of stores to buy local, sustainable ingredients.
Percy has recruited her close friend and holistic nutritionist, Sherry Rothwell, to help with the website.
Rothwell, who lives in Fort Rouge, said she works with a lot of parents, and said they often resort to processed foods because they’re "frazzled and overspent."
"When people imagine making things from scratch, it seems like a whole lot of work," she said.
It doesn’t have to be, she added. With some careful planning, a simple Sunday meal like a slow-cooked chicken could easily also become chicken nuggets, chicken salad sandwiches, and soup base.
"It’s not that hard if you start with a little planning and it’s going to make your whole week so much easier," she said.
Percy added that because the site is membership-based, once a parent has signed up they can begin sharing their own recipes and advice — like how to get a fussy eater to gobble up their vegetables.
"We all know that some of the best tips we’ve ever got — whether that’s as a parent or just in your day-to-day life — those sorts of things come from people who are already in your community," she said.
To celebrate the grassroots tradition of sharing recipes, Percy added, there’s an opportunity for people to share the story behind any recipe they submit.
Rothwell added many of the recipes are based on foods you might find in an average child’s lunch — like cream cheese, chicken nuggets, dried fruit snacks, vegetable dip and granola bars.
"Basically, upgrade the quality of what they’re already eating, so you don’t overwhelm them with change," she said.
Percy said while the food might look a little different to kids, as long as it tastes good they’ll be more than happy.
"Kids have to be given the opportunity to eat good, healthy meals," she said.
To help launch the website, Dig In Manitoba will be screening the award-winning film Nourish on Sept. 21 at the Park Theatre at 7 p.m., followed by a panel discussion.
Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door.
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