Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Jamie's Food Revolution at Real Food For Real Kids (RFRK)...

An exciting day spent at Real Food For Real Kids' new facility talking real food, food waste and Jamie's Food Revolution! RFRK was founded in 2004 by Lulu Cohen-Farnell, an awe-inspiring woman and mother who revolutionized nutrition in school lunches and snacks with her popular children's catering company. Cooking fresh from scratch, they deliver healthy, delicious meals and snacks to 15,000 kids in the GTA every day at 30+ elementary schools and over 240 childcare centres. 

On-site Lunch Club Coaches are hired to serve the prepared food at each of the participating schools and impart food education as well as encourage the kids to try new foods. I am one of those lucky Lunch Club Coaches and I absolutely love engaging my young students on what they are about to eat. The monthly-changing menu offers an array of globally-inspired dishes that focus on whole grain products, in-season fruits, vegetables and products grown & produced locally. It's always deeply rewarding to see how happy these kids are when some of their favourites are being served and I am just thrilled when they come back for seconds :). See here for more on the lunch program.

New on the Spring Menu-- Clementines!

Enjoying lunch leftovers brought home-- Chili Chili Bang Bang over whole wheat couscous balls and Carrot Slaw with savoury sweet Samurai Sauce. And sliced oranges for dessert.

Nutritious and Delicious!

Jamie Oliver's 5th Annual Food Revolution Day (May 20th) is around the corner, and as an ambassador for Toronto, I was here to discuss combining our synergies to make the day and the days leading up a rally of social media support and other ideas for real food awareness, and also to have a tour at their bright expansive 32,000 square foot location just four months new. For my previous post on my visit at their original location, read here.

David Lutterman, RFRK's Communications Manager took me through the multi-room kitchen and production areas built on HACCP principles (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points - a preventative food safety system in which every step in the manufacture, storage and distribution of a food product is scientifically analyzed for cross-contamination, microbiological, physical and chemical hazards). The space is huge and separate rooms are designated for various tasks. Kitchen staff start their production day at 3 am. David takes utmost pride in walking clients through so they can see first-hand the day-to-day operations, hear about their suppliers of fresh ingredients and see some of their top-of-the-line quality equipment in action.

In this room, an in-house healthy snack mix blend is being bagged and weighed according to the required amounts for participating schools. "Snacktivities” are a Real Food Menu favourite! Each Snacktivity allows kids to be creative and play with their food - they like to call it "Fun Fooducation”. Bonus: these interactive snacks feature a mix of veggies, fruits, grains and house-made dips.

How much do I love the R&D Product Development department? This is where ideation takes place and creations originate. As a past product developer myself, I enjoy the science behind creating recipes on bench top that gets turned over into large scale production to feed the masses. Certainly, it is a thrilling challenge to mass produce a good tasting product that will also retain its quality and texture during the holding period as it gets delivered over to the schools and childcare centres, and ultimately happily feed small bellies. Since I am on the receiving end at my school getting the goods and having the leftovers for lunch, I can hands-down say I am very impressed with the quality and flavours!

With Jessica, RFRK’s Lead Development Chef

Bagged and weighed washed baby spinach and hand shredded 
rainbow veggies ready to be packed and delivered.

Real fruit puréed in house for smoothies to be used for childcare centres.

Food gets dropped off by the super drivers using a fleet of fuel-efficient vans. On the return trip dirty trays and serving utensils are picked up and get thoroughly sanitized (the bins too!) as soon as they enter the door, thanks to an amazingly efficient Hobart dishwasher.

With Executive Coordinator, Geri Soulliere
and Co-owner & CEO of RFRK, David Farnell

The importance of workplace health is evident here. The office area is equipped with many walking stations as desks, pilate balls as chairs and stationary bikes complete with desktop usability. 

RFRK’s Director of Finance and Talent & Training, Katie Gardon

Clowning around with this fabulous food production crew!

At RFRK, staff enjoy the same delicious meals that are served to kids and they love it! This day we had saucy chicken thighs over a brown rice and quinoa medley, steamed carrots and a lovely crunchy slaw. Delicious and nutritious!

Lunching it with David Lutterman

Ahh, RFRK's signature blue and green delivery vans! 

This proud man - Jay, a Super Driver tells me he used to weigh over 300 lbs. He is living proof of what cutting out sugar and eating right can do for you (thanks for going on the record, Jay). In order to get his health on track, he replaced soda and sweets with cookin’ up real food recipes (found on sites like RFRK and Jamie Oliver). BRAVO Jay!

This year's 5th Annual Food Revolution Day (FRD 2016) champions the Power of Cooking. Jamie Oliver has defined ten recipes which he will be asking people everywhere to join him and cook. This will be centred around ten delicious, nutritionally balanced recipes, which has been defined as the “Starter Pack of Cooking”, each covering a different skill and technique that can give anyone the confidence to cook good, real, healthy meals for themselves and their families, for now and the future. Jamie has spoken about the idea of ten recipes to save your life since his TED talk in 2010

At RFRK, we discussed incorporating some of these recipes into our collaborative plans leading up to FRD--  a "Cook For Your Life" themed week engaging food industry individuals about their favourite go-to recipes, rallying Lunch Club Coaches and RFRK staff to get kids excited about food, and providing Jamie's recipe resources for families and the community to get cooking on RFRK's site and social media shout outs.

Keepin' It Real-- everyday, all the way! Thank you David and Kaelan for the most wonderful time! Keep up the great work RFRK! And let's keep talking and working together to create a healthier and happier future for all!

David Lutterman, Communications Manager and Kaelan Karjalainen, Communications Coordinator

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