Doctors and nutritionists in the province are asking parents, teachers and education administrators to take a closer look at what their school cafeterias are serving.
They're asking parents to anonymously share photos of their children's school menus to see whether cafeterias are following the guidelines set out in the Department of Education policy.
In 2005, the New Brunswick government established rules to remove food with low nutritional value from school vending machines, cafeterias and fundraisers, including candy, sweetened drinks, french fries, pastries and hotdogs.
'We don't want to target any schools, we just want a sense of what's going on in the province' - Vanessa MacLellan, N.B. Dietitians in Action
Foods that have moderate nutrition but contain higher levels of fat, sugar and sodium; for example salted soups, milkshakes and canned vegetables, are offered in a limited way — each about twice a week.
Foods recommended for daily consumption include whole grains, fresh vegetables, white milk and lean cuts of meat.
Some schools are only serving healthy foods, but many still serve foods that have been essentially banned from schools under provincial policy, the New Brunswick Medical Society said in a release.
"Overwhelming evidence shows that healthy habits are established in childhood," said Dr. Lynn Hansen, president of the medical society.
"School cafeterias should be an extension of the classroom — teaching kids healthy eating habits they'll stick with for life."
School information will be removed from photos
The initiative to share photographs of school lunches, called Make Menus Matter, is a joint effort between the medical society and the group New Brunswick Dietitians in Action.
Vanessa MacLellan, a registered dietitian and co-chair of the group, said lunches will be tested to get a better idea of what schools are serving.
"You hear of some great success stories, but you also hear of, 'My child is receiving minimum nutritional value food on their menu,'" said MacLellan.
"So it was just, we need to take a look and see if schools across the country are following Policy 711, and if they're not, why they're not, what should be our next steps, and what do we need to do to ensure they can achieve this?"
Photos can be sent to the medical society or uploaded to its "Care First" Facebook Page. The group will remove all identifying child and school-related information.
"We don't want to target any schools, we just want a sense of what's going on in the province," MacLellan said.
"We want to have this campaign, not to blame and shame, but to help and share the right resources. And if schools need assistance from dietitians, that we get it in place … It's a good thing. This campaign is good."
The medical society's “Care First” plan was released at the end of September, and emphasizes preventative medicine and the patient’s role in managing their own health.