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A recent Ipsos Five survey revealed a significant decline in wheat consumption among millennials as compared to baby boomers. While boomers consume wheat-based products more than 10 times per week, millennials do so  just once or twice. “Wheat foods have many short- and long-term health benefits and based on the survey, there are gaps for millennials in understanding the nutritional benefits of wheat,” said Elaine Sopiwnyk, vice-president of technical services for Cereals Canada. Sopiwnyk also sits on the Canadian Wheat Nutrition Initiative (CWNI) leadership team.

To bridge the wheat nutrition knowledge gap, the CWNI What about Wheat? campaign disseminates science-based facts about wheat nutrition. In collaboration with registered dietitians and food communicators, the campaign encourages the consumption of healthy, wheat-based foods. The campaign is founded and funded by Alberta Grains, Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission, Manitoba Crop Alliance, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Canadian National Millers Association and Cereals Canada.

The What about Wheat? program’s inaugural, four-day Wheat Retreat was held April 27-30, in Winnipeg, MB. Hosted by CWNI and Cereals Canada, the event brought together dietitians and chefs with representatives of wheat commissions, the Canadian National Millers Association, Science Advisory Group and Cereals Canada as well as farmers. It was a transformative learning and community-building experience.

“Developing science-based information and communicating it to key influencers was a pivotal strategy for Alberta Grains in partnering on the What About Wheat? campaign and Wheat Retreat,” said Megan Evans, Alberta Grains communications and events manager. “The Wheat Retreat took that science-based messaging and made it an interactive experience. Attendees created lasting memories and connections while learning about the health benefits of wheat.”

Participants were immersed in experiential learning activities and expert presentations. The aim was to give them a deep understanding of wheat farming, milling and the production of wheat-based products such as bread, pasta and noodles. Presentations examined the scope of commercially available flour varieties and the nutritional advantages of enriched flour and whole grain products. CWNI science advisory council experts delivered insight about the nutritional and dietary benefits of wheat. They highlighted its value as a source of dietary fibre, its positive effects on heart health and in reducing the risk of diabetes. Presenters also discussed food manufacturing processes such as milling and baking as well as pasta and noodle-making.

With a greater appreciation of wheat nutrition and functionality, attendees said the Wheat Retreat improved their ability to effectively communicate accurate information about wheat to their clients and on social media. “This experience was truly enlightening and beneficial. I can’t wait to pass this knowledge to my readers. I also feel more confident in debunking wheat myths with my clients,” said Alberta Grains ambassador Christopher Rivest. “I never knew there was so much to learn about the Canadian wheat industry. From growing to milling, every step plays a vital role in bringing the best quality wheat to our tables.”

By empowering dietitians and food communicators with knowledge about wheat, CWNI and its members intend to provide consumers with positive, accurate nutrition information and ensure they make well-informed choices regarding their wheat consumption.

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