Getting kids hooked on whole foods that are high in nutrients and protein and low in sugar, salt and additives is the Real Food way![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”6606″ img_size=”800×500″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]David Farnell and Lulu Cohen-Farnell have outgrown their 9,000 square-foot kitchen. They need to double it. The reason is that, despite having just two children of their own, they cook for nearly 3,500 kids. Each day. From scratch.
Their business, catching the interest of many schools and even Queen’s Park, is called Real Food for Real Kids (RFRK). In 75 daycares across the GTA, the couple is instilling nutrition in the bodies and minds of youngsters. The target is to eliminate processed, nutrient-poor foods that typically populate kid’s menus and cafeterias.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]With their bare bands, and a passion for home-cooked nutritious meals, they are taking action in a society that preaches nutrition but often fails to make the grade. David Farnell calls RFRK a “preventative health measure” in getting kids hooked on whole foods that are high in nutrients and protein and low in sugar, salt and additives. “We want kids to understand real foods at a young age,” Farnell said. “This is a healthier future.”
Their idea hatched in 2003 when they were enrolling son Max in a daycare. After a long search, they settled on a YMCA facility that was great, but for one small fact. The food wasn’t so hot, standard daycare fare produced by giant (Kraft, etc.) manufacturers. So they sent Max every day with his own lunch. They expressed concern to the daycare director, who was quite open to try and figure out how all the kids could eat as well as Max. And right there, RFRK was born.
The couple launched a snack program in Max’s daycare. Positive parental feedback sparked the YMCA to ask them to do the same in 13 other daycares. Soon, kids watched chicken nuggets and powdered potatoes evaporate, replaced by organic tortilla chips and homemade muffins.
“We found that nobody does this!” Farnell exclaimed. “There are small-scale caterers doing various things, but nobody attempts to cook from scratch for thousands of kids each day.”
RFRK was underway, with the couple proudly taking aim at obesity and diabetes, as well as global warming. For the former, they use all-natural ingredients and organic food as much possible. For the latter, they use a fleet of environmentally-friendly vehicles to get to
the daycares. More than that, Farnell said they are creating a “local living economy.”
RFRK’s approach is a universe away from hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza and French fries that is so often sold to children. “These companies are feeding kids’ eyes,” Farnell said. “We are interesting in feeding kids’ bodies.”
From nearby farms, largely organic, the couple sources as much food as possible. Cohen-Farnell develops recipes with the help of cooks that not only deal with vegetarian and vegan needs, but also food allergies and gluten-free meals. Meat, poultry and fish have been ethically raised and contain no antibiotics or hormones. Needless to say, there is no trace of trans fats anywhere. Their wide scope of dishes pulls influences from many specific cuisines such as Italian, Indian and French.
What they do with snack foods is most interesting. There is no junk in what may appear to be junk food. Normal ketchup is high in salt and sugar. RFRK ketchup is a tomato dip made from Kerr Farms locally harvested tomatoes, fused with crushed pineapple (for the sweetness) and other “secret” ingredients, Farnell said. Tortilla chips are all-organic and low-salt.
Dips masquerading as unhealthy are in fact quite nutritious. A rich, creamy dip that seems to house sour cream or mayonnaise is loaded with organic silken tofu, Farnell explained. “It’s a silky dip with tomato paste and spices. Because it’s silken tofu, it’s not loaded with fat, it’s actually protein.”
It’s a busy operation with often a frenetic pace. (Even nailing down a time to speak with either of them proved hazardous.) RFRK has about 15 staff members and many volunteers. Mornings start early, word has it around 3 am, to start making fresh sauces and getting ingredients ready.
And they are doing nothing but expanding. Lunch clubs are to be rolled out this fall. The “Ecolunch Club” will deliver hot meals to schools, eaten in family-like settings in a cafeteria or gym. The food is cooked from scratch each day. Farnell said this is already working
well in a test school in Toronto, and has been the subject of a documentary about slow foods. Another option is the “Real Food Lunch Bag,” where they make sandwiches with nitrate-free cold cuts, homemade cookies, and other all-natural brownbag items. “It’s like mom cooked all day,” Farnell said. The third plan is a pizza party where the Farnells make pies with whole wheat crusts, local organic tomato sauce, nitrate-free pepperoni, and so forth.
The common theme among them all is, Farnell said, that they control all ingredients. That way, RFRK can foster lunchtime nutrition. Their operation hasn’t gone unnoticed. The McGuinty government has called them for clues as to how to boost the health of Ontario’s children.
“It’s not that complicated,” Farnell said. “I guess nobody is trying hard enough.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]