New initiative promises to boost Food IQ of students

Durham College (DC) is promoting food literacy and fighting food insecurity.

The Campus Health and Wellness Centre (CHWC) and the Barrett Centre of Innovation in Sustainable Urban Agriculture have teamed up for ‘Food IQ: Growing Minds, Growing Plates’. The multifaceted initiative seeks to educate DC students on the importance of accessible, affordable healthy food and preparing nutritious meals.

“Durham Region as a whole is having food insecurity and food literacy issues. Some individuals struggle with making economical food choices while keeping nutritional value in mind due to the increased cost of living,” said Jennifer Elliott, CHWC director, noting that such issues are especially prevalent among young students living on their own for the first time. 

Brenna Bizley, partnership manager for the Barrett Centre, agrees that improving food literacy in youth is critical.

“We need to teach students that purchasing fresh fruit or vegetables provides more of a nutritional benefit than spending that same amount of money on processed food that might be more familiar to them,” she said. “Hopefully that will build some awareness and momentum around healthy eating and making healthy choices.”

With that in mind, the CHWC and the Barrett Centre have expanded the DC Farmer’s Market by bringing it to the Oshawa campus, allowing more students to access fresh produce. The Durham College Student Association (DCSA) is providing coupons to help all students benefit from the market. Unsold produce has been donated to the DC Food Bank and used in other programming, including cooking classes and as snacks for students.

CHWC wellness coaches attend the market every Tuesday to promote food literacy activities, mindful eating and healthy habits, while also ensuring that students know about resources that can help them, like financial support and the DCSA food bank.

Additional programming will be available for the Fall semester. Munchie Mondays will teach students how to prepare budget conscious snacks, while Mindful Farm Fridays invites them to join wellness coaches at the Whitby campus for mindfulness practice. The CHWC’s eating disorders psychotherapist will provide education and counseling on important topics like body dysmorphia.

Plans for more programs and activities are in the works, like budget planning and grocery shopping tips.

Food literacy is important for everyone, but especially for the younger generation, according to Elliott.

“Developing food literacy skills, such as understanding nutrition, cooking, and meal planning, can lead to healthier eating habits. This, in turn, promotes better physical and mental health among students,” she said. “Our hope is that this can instill lifelong habits of responsible and conscious eating. Students are more likely to carry forward the knowledge and values they acquire during their college years, making a positive impact on their own lives and the lives of others.”