A successful $3.5-million pilot nutrition program that has run at 14 Alberta schools, including one in Red Deer, will be expanded in the fall to every school board in the province.
Since November, Fairview Elementary School, a Red Deer Public School, has provided free, healthy meals to its students as part of the pilot.
Red Deer Public Schools was among the jurisdictions chosen based on greatest need determined by socio-economic status data from Statistics Canada. Each received $250,000 to run a nutrition program at one school.
On Wednesday the province announced those 14 jurisdictions will continue to receive $250,000 for 2017-18 and the remaining 46 jurisdictions will each get $141,000 to implement the program.
Another $10 million will be added to expand the program province-wide.
Char Andrew, health and wellness co-ordinator for Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division, said the division is still waiting for more details on how the funding can be used.
“We really appreciate that opportunity and our division values the importance of nutrition for our students because it helps support improved learning,” Andrew said.
“We’ll see what we can do with it.”
Kurt Sacher, superintendent with Chinook’s Edge School Division, said overall the program sounds like a good thing for kids and staff should be able to develop a plan and implement it in the fall.
“This latest proposal will fit with what we were already planning and moving forward with and it will create some new opportunities for us,” Sacher said.
Through the Fairview school program, students access free breakfasts, lunches and a take-home snack that meet cultural and religious diversity and special dietary needs. Parents have the ability to opt out of the program that’s open to all students, but most of the 225 students at the school participate.
Bruce Buruma, director of community relations with Red Deer Public Schools, said the school district will continue to monitor the Fairview program and is waiting to find out if there will be more program flexibility in the future.
“Our assumption is we will continue with the program as we have it at Fairview School. It still continues to be one of the pilots so we’re just waiting for direction from the province.”