Child nutrition has become a focus of the Government of Alberta as 14 school boards across the province are participating in a new school nutrition pilot.
Each school board has been asked to choose one K–6 school to participate in the pilot, and each school will receive a $250,000 grant. The funding is coming from the existing Alberta Education budget.
The Calgary Catholic School District is one of the boards selected to be involved in the program, which is already up and running at Holy Family School.
Principal Lisa Ashworth said the program helps relieve parents’ financial burden by providing lunches for students during the school day. She remarked how food prices and the cost of eating healthy have increased.
“I said to my husband the other day, when did milk become $7 for four litres, and butter $6 for a pound?” she said.
Ashworth said some families may be crunching the numbers when it comes to daily living, and parents will have more room to breathe with this program as it provides lunches every day of the week.
Alberta Teachers’ Association president Mark Ramsankar said the ATA fully supports the pilot and is excited to see the results of the program.
“Hunger adversely influences a child’s readiness to learn. I applaud the government’s efforts to support Alberta children in this area,” he said.
“Alberta classrooms are extremely complex. Children arrive with a wide variety of personal issues and needs. Hunger, as a result of poverty, must be addressed.”
Ashworth said Holy Family is in its first week of implementation and the response has been overwhelming.
“Right now we are on day three, and we are constantly seeing 150 out of 180 of our kids, or 85 per cent participation each day,” she said.
“We talked to the kids about what we are offering and let them know it was an invitational thing. It is not necessarily to say you can come and have lunch if your parents can’t provide it for you. It’s more to say, here is something that’s for everyone, and if you are looking for some healthy choices for whatever reason, it is here for everyone.”
The school has partnered with Meals on Wheels for hot meals on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and Brown Bagging for Calgary Kids to help provide sandwiches for Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“We’ve seen first-hand the impact of school nutrition in the classroom, from better focus and improved grades to increased social skills and higher energy levels,” said Janice Curtis, executive director of Calgary Meals on Wheels. ❚