Nutrition program starts at Red Deer school

Free breakfast and lunch provided to 225 students

Breakfast and lunch at Fairview Elementary School now resemble really big family meals with all 225 students taking part in the new provincial pilot program to feed hungry students.

The program kicked off on Monday at the pre-kindergarten to Grade 5 school. Breakfast was a half a bagel with cream cheese, fruit slices and milk. Lunch was a chicken, vegetable and cheese wrap, with vegetables on the side.

Nicola Golby, associate superintendent with learning services at Red Deer Public Schools, said she anticipated many families would opt into the free program that provides universal support to students at Fairview.

“We want this to be open to everyone and for everyone to feel welcome to join in,” Golby said on Monday.

On Nov. 15, the province announced the school nutrition pilot program. Red Deer Public and 13 other school jurisdictions received $250,000 for one of its schools to participate in the pilot for the rest of the 2016-17 school year.

Jurisdictions were chosen based on greatest need determined by socio-economic status data from Statistics Canada. Results from the pilot will help guide nutrition programs for schools across the province in 2017-18.

Golby said she knew of at least one other jurisdiction that started its pilot last week, but Red Deer Public is likely among the earliest to get its program off the ground.

“We didn’t want kids sitting hungry when we had money sitting in an account.”

The meal program meets cultural and religious diversity, as well as special dietary needs of students. Parents do have the ability to opt out of the program.

Two week menus in English and Arabic have gone out to parents in case students would rather bring a meal from home or add something to their school meal. Other languages are being added to the menu.

“We’re looking forward to gathering feedback from the school community so that we can improve the program and make it better as we go through the year,” Golby said.

Yolanda Infante, who is contracted to run the cafeteria at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School, was hired to provide the Fairview meals.

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