When the provincial government passed a bill to get rid of junk food in school cafeterias, Toronto students responded by going somewhere else for lunch. With the declining health of today's youth in mind, the Toronto Education Workers and the Toronto District School Board wanted to get students back into the caf and eating better.
The goal was clear: we had to initiate a cultural shift - change nutritional education from Dos and Don'ts to Hows and Whys. We started by developing a brand that didn't just express this new approach; it became a rallying cry. Enter My Food My Way.
"We're not just about nutrition; we're about the culture of food."Read more...
We were single-minded in what we wanted to achieve, but we knew that the campaign had to be multi-faceted. Our strategy had to work towards both a systemic change and a transformation of public perception. Needless to say, there were several elements that had to work together and the boundaries of engagement had to be pushed.
The first ads we created weren't just passive promotion; they instigated conversations. My Food My Way posters used QR codes to give the audience a chance to weigh in on its content. Not only did it get the word out, it was also an effective and scalable research tool.
When My Food My Way announced its presence, people began to take notice. Soon, internationally acclaimed chef Susur Lee was championing our cause, and our game-changing philosophy became headline news. But national coverage was only the beginning.
By building an innovative web application, we were able to bring the discussion of nutrition onto the main pages of humour and technology websites. At its height, there were more than 10,000 users making food-themed video messages with Foodagram. And yes, some of them were famous.
More importantly, each and every one of those users was joining the discourse.
We connected with young people both online and in person, making sure that they were involved every step of the way. There were surveys, focus groups, and workshops. We even hired Toronto high school students as models for our photographic assets - and as the photographers too.
The Student Ambassador Program was our way of focusing on specific schools in the GTA and engaging its student body. The pilot school was Thistletown Collegiate, where we teamed up with chef and teacher Keith Hoare.
We helped the students re-imagine their cafeteria experience and encouraged them to make positive changes for themselves.
As the campaign continued to flourish, we partnered with local food events, translating our doctrine into real life experiences. Abbey's Kitchen Stadium, a popular live cooking competition, gave Student Ambassadors the chance to work alongside successful Toronto chefs and join a larger culinary culture.
My Food My Way also began working with Humber College to introduce tower gardens into local high schools. We wanted to integrate schools into the cycle of food so that young people could have a closer relationship with what they eat. It highlighted the fact that a local movement could indeed have a global impact.
We coordinated efforts with the Food Innovation and Research Studio at George Brown College to create new menu items for school cafeterias - dishes that meet nutritional standards but also look and taste great. Once again, the students' feedback was invaluable and reiterated the fact that they were the true leaders of the campaign.
My Food My Way has never been about forcing ideas onto students; it's about getting them to develop a new ideology. Their enthusiasm and insight drive the campaign, giving them ownership over a legacy that will define the health of future generations - and eventually, change the way teenagers eat.