Solving the peanut-free school lunch problem

Over the last week or so of everyone’s back to school preparations, I’ve been noticing a lot of coverage about school lunches and the dilemna of what to send with your kids. I didn’t realize this was such a problem – I’ve been out of school myself for quite some time and don’t have any kids in the system, so I didn’t realize how complicated a task making a lunch could be.

The biggest problem seems to be nut allergies, specifically to peanuts. So many kids are allergic – in some cases deathly so – that many schools have banned all peanut products from their premises. This includes peanut butter, a great, low cost protein source that together with jelly has been an iconic staple of school lunches for generations of Canadians.

So it seemed fitting to me when I learned about a product called SafeSchool SoyButter made by Hilton Soy Foods. It’s a peanut butter replacement made from soy that tastes, smells, looks and feels just like peanut butter – so much so in fact that company president Scott Mahon told me some schools refuse to believe that it’s NOT the banned butter.

The other thing I love about it is the fact that it’s made right here in Ontario, in the small town of Staffa near Stratford about an hour and a half west of Toronto, and it uses all Ontario-grown soybeans. This, I was told, qualifies it for a Foodland Ontario label.

And just in time for the start of school lunch season, the product is now available in about 400 Ontario grocery stores, including Walmart Supercentres, Sobeys, Metro, Loeb and Independent Grocer. Soy 20/20, an organization charged with developing market opportunities for the Ontario soybean industry, has been instrumental in helping the company expand its distribution. Until a year ago, the product was only available on their website.

Hilton Soy Foods was recognized with a regional Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence in 2009 for their efforts in producing a food product that can help Canadians cope with life-threatening nut allergies.

Healthy, safe for schools and local. Sounds like a winning combination to me!

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