Local, homemade and fun: how nutrition enhances learning

Study after study has confirmed that good nutrition improves learning skills, particularly when memory is required. Poor nutrition has been linked to lower test scores, inability to concentrate and grumpiness. There is no debate that kids are happier at school and better able to learn when they have a balanced meal. That’s why serving nutritious food on campus is a priority at Pickering College.

All of our menus are reviewed by a nutritionist and follow Canada’s Food Guide, which now lists vegetables as the food group that should be most often consumed (it used to be grains). But here’s how we take nutrition a step further:

All of the dairy and egg products served on campus and over half of purchased produce are locally farmed. Local food tastes better because it is so fresh, leaves a much smaller environmental footprint, is safer because it has passed through fewer hands and time zones and supports the local economy. It also offers our students more nutrients since produce loses valuable minerals and nutrients the longer it sits. Because of our focus on local food, our menus change to reflect the seasons.

Due to the high sodium content in processed foods, we choose to make our own tomato sauce and pizza dough. Our homemade soups and sauces use our own vegetable, chicken or veal stock as a base. We offer vegetarian menus and accommodate students with allergies, diabetes or celiac disease. Our entire lunch menu is prepared by baking, grilling, steaming, poaching, braising or sautéing and our primary students have milk and a vegetable platter on their table every day. We have installed reverse osmosis water filtration systems in our residences, eliminating the need for plastic water bottles.

We recognize that children are more likely to eat nutritious food when it’s fun. That’s why we come up with creative approaches to serving food, such as creating restaurant style cultural-themed weekly family dinners for our boarding students. We promote eating mindfully and with gratitude by beginning our meals with grace and a moment of silence.