Red Deer Public Schools is one of 14 school jurisdictions taking part in a provincial pilot program announced Monday targeting school nutrition.
Only one school from each jurisdiction can participate and Red Deer Public chose Fairview Elementary School.
The school’s 230 pre-kindergarten to Grade 5 students will all have access to free, healthy breakfasts and lunches hopefully by December.
Nicola Golby, associate superintendent with learning services, said the district decided to provide a universal program instead of serving a very small number of students who are the most in need.
“We want all of our students to be happy and successful at school. Part of making that happen is making sure they have nutritious food available,” Golby said on Monday.
It’s a way to provide equity which is one of the districts’s priorities, she added.
The meal program meet cultural and religious diversity, as well as special dietary needs of individual students. Parents do have the ability to opt out of the program.
Each jurisdiction will receive $250,000 for the pilot, funded from Alberta Education’s existing budget. 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.
Red Deer Public already runs breakfast and snack programs at its schools to feed hungry students. Golby said the pilot expands those food programs at Fairview.
“We know it’s difficult for students to concentrate on learning when they’re hungry. It’s heart-breaking for us to know we have students sitting in our classrooms that are arriving at school hungry. This is our opportunity to just take away that barrier.”
She said the district is lining up a caterer to provide the meals and is grateful to be part of pilot that is part of the province’s Future Ready initiative.