Researchers awarded $50K to improve food culture in high schools

News Release
April 25, 2014

London, ON – Professors at Brescia University College have been awarded a $50,000 Healthy Eating in Secondary Schools grant from the Ontario Ministry of Education to launch a university peer nutrition education program at Oakridge Secondary School later this month.

FRESH (Food Resources and Education for Student Health) is a multi-strategy program created by and for university students under the supervision of Dr. Paula Dworatzek and Dr. June Matthews, Associate Professors in Food and Nutrition at Brescia, Anne Zok, Nutrition Manager for Western’s Hospitality Services.

Now in its fifth year of operation, FRESH has reached thousands of university students through peer education (FRESH ED), a web site (, and various social media channels. It has also influenced the campus food environment by highlighting healthier options in vending machines (Healthier 4U) and on menus (FRESH Approved). Their frequent-buyer program (FRESH Fruit/Dairy Card) has increased consumption of these healthy foods.

“Research shows that many of our youth are overweight or obese, and have low intakes of fruits and vegetables. Young people want to learn food skills through hands-on, school-based, learning opportunities delivered by their peers. Our program can meet that need,” said Dr. Matthews.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to reach more youth and to change the food culture in high schools. It is also significant, in that students spend about 30 hours a week in that environment,” said Dr. Dworatzek.

Drs. Matthews and Dworatzek will work with Diane O’Shea, Family Studies Department Head and Teacher at Oakridge Secondary School, to implement FRESH High with the help of 20 students, drawn mostly from Grade 10. “Our students who take ownership of the program will obtain significant benefits from working with student mentors from the university FRESH program. In addition to developing food and nutrition knowledge, they will also develop leadership skills by translating what they learn in the classroom to real life,” said O’Shea.

Throughout the 2014-2015 school year, Oakridge students will receive mentoring and orientation to be empowered participants in FRESH High. The program will teach the students to become advocates for changes to the food environment, and raise brand awareness through interactive displays, food demonstrations, and social media. If the inaugural program is deemed a success in a post-program evaluation, FRESH High may expand to other secondary schools.

Brescia University College hosts one of the top Food and Nutrition programs in the country. Its graduates go on to work in healthcare, industry, education, government, and media. Oakridge boasts one of the highest rates of students who go on to post-secondary education. The successful implementation of FRESH High through this unique partnership may be transferred to other high schools, benefitting thousands of students across the province.

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For more information please contact:

Colleen Aguilar, Communications, Marketing & External Relations Officer at 519.432.8353, ext.28280 or at You may also contact Sheila Blagrave, Director of Communications and Marketing at ext. 28293 or at

Dr. Paula Dworatzek, Associate Professor, Food and Nutritional Sciences at 519-432-8353 ext. 28020 or at, or Dr. June Matthews, Associate Professor, Food and Nutritional Sciences at

Brescia University College, Canada’s only women’s university, is affiliated with Western University. The 1,275 women registered as either full- or part-time students at Brescia study a wide variety of subjects in Arts, Social Sciences, and Foods & Nutrition in an empowering, compassionate, student-centred, and invigorating environment. Degrees are granted by Western. The Catholic College welcomes students from all backgrounds and values diversity. For more current and archived news, a listing of faculty experts, and photos please visit our Online Media Room at