it all started with max…
A message from RFRK’s Founder, Lulu Cohen-Farnell:
Growing up in Paris, preparing and eating delicious healthy foods made fresh from scratch daily with quality ingredients, was the norm at our home.
When I was a kid, my grandmother’s kitchen was my playground. Several times a week we visited farmer’s markets and were encouraged to smell and touch the food, exchange ideas with the farmers and local producers and dream about the delicious meals we would cook together that day.
For me, cooking is like painting. Armed with a varied palette of colourful and tasty ingredients, spices and fresh herbs, cooking becomes a sensory game.
Fast forward many moons later when my husband and I landed in Toronto in 1999 and had our first child Maxime in 2002.
Soon after Max was born, while searching for child care, I was shocked to discover that the importance of a nutrient-rich diet right from early childhood was not reflected in the menus of any of the child care centres. Regardless of neighbourhood, price, style, or educational philosophy, every centre served the same type of highly processed convenience food.
I wanted to continue to train and expand his palate and base his earliest memories on the right kinds of food. I chose a child care centre and prepared all his lunches and snacks every day. The caregivers of the centre spoke so highly of Max’s food that the resourceful Director, Suzy Moreira, began asking me for advice on how to improve the menu for the rest of the kids.
Suzy recognized the long-term benefits of feeding kids healthy foods but explained that options were limited for the child care community. There was a clear need to create a kids’ catering program based on wholesome foods, rich in nutrients and flavours, and free of artificial ingredients, chemical preservatives, genetically modified ingredients and factory-farmed meats.
The pre-packaged convenience food model was the only game in town, not because it was the right way to feed kids, because no one had challenged the status quo, yet! So with the help and support of my husband, David, I did the only sensible thing, I quit my job at a brand design agency to fully dedicate myself to this cause: feeding real food to kids! We took a second mortgage on our house, hired a couple of amazing people, and went through a full scale re-think of child care food service.
The goal was to provide kids in child care centres deliciously prepared litterless hot lunches and snacks with lots of fruits and vegetables, free of artificial ingredients, fake sweeteners, factory-farmed meats, and fillers of any kind.
The first child care centre served by Real Food for Real Kids was the very same centre that Max enjoyed crawling, toddling, walking, and running through much of his 4 first years – the awesome YMCA Family Development Centre in downtown Toronto.
AND SO IT GREW…
From those bright-eyed beginnings, our real food team has grown (a lot!) and Real Food for Real Kids now serves nutritious and delicious meals and snacks every day to over 20,000 kids in child care centres and schools in the GTHA.
A wise woman once said, “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” We like to think we can hear her cooking, too!
WHERE WOULD WE BE WITHOUT OUR INTREPID CREW?
They tend to wear a lot of hats: chefs, educators, tasters, researchers, coordinators. They’re all-around great people and loads of fun to boot!
real food forward
When we started the Real Food Lunch Club (RFLC) program in elementary schools in 2008, we created a subsidy program called Real Food Forward (RFF).
We leveraged contributions from RFRK, parents and generous community members, to provide free meals for families that needed a helping hand. Since its inception, RFF has provided over 35,000 free meals to kids’ in need across the GTHA!