Provincial funding to continue for School Nutrition Program

Some great news for local school districts regarding a program that provides daily nutritious meals for thousands of Alberta students.

The provincial government has announced it will continue funding the School Nutrition Program first implemented by the NDP as a pilot in 2016 and continued over the past two years.

For Red Deer Public Schools, the funding will continue to boost programs already in place at Fairview Elementary School and Normandeau School.

Superintendent Stu Henry says Fairview Elementary School received over $150,000 from the grant in each of the last two years, while Normandeau received roughly the same amount last year after the government increased its investment in the program.

Nicola Golby, associate superintendent for Red Deer Public Schools, says they’re pleased the renewed funding will continue to make healthy foods available to students in hopes of supplementing what they may or may not be able to bring from home.

“At Normandeau, the students will have access to breakfast foods before the bell and then during the morning if students are hungry, they can walk down and pick up muffins between classes,” she explains. “Then lunch will be available for any student in the school daily, so they will have milk, fruits, vegetables and some kind of a hot lunch or sandwiches every day of the week.”

At Fairview, Golby says a grab-n-go breakfast will be available for students after the morning bell.

“They’ll have fruits and vegetables fresh every day, milk fresh every day, kind of special days where they’ll have their smoothie days, special days where they’ll have ‘try something new on your toast’ days,” explains Golby. “Then they’re going to try partnering with the Mustard Seed this year for lunches. We want to see what we can do in terms of expanding our partnership with the Mustard Seed and see if we can get even more students from different schools and the ability to have some extra food before lunches if its needed.”

However, despite the renewed government funding Golby says many schools will likely continue their search for additional community support to help keep the program sustainable.

“With a government grant being year-to-year, we never know if it’s going to come the following year or not,” says Golby. “So any support that we can get to help provide some sustainability for future years is really appreciated.”

At Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools, associate superintendent of faith development and division support, Ryan Ledene, says they are happy Alberta Education will continue to fund the program.

“In the 2018-2019 school year, the school nutrition grant was utilized by St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds and St. Teresa of Avila School in Red Deer,” says Ledene. “This year, we will expand the usage of the school nutrition grant to include St. Patrick’s Community School in Red Deer.”

Alberta Education’s School Nutrition Program saw an initial investment of $3.5 million in the 2016-2017 school year as a pilot project, with 14 school authorities across the province benefitting.

A further $10 million was invested in the program through Budget 2017 and another $15.5 million in 2018 for a total of $29 million over the last three years.

Provincial officials have confirmed the School Nutrition Program will once again be funded with $15.5 million in 2019-2020, with each school district receiving the same amount of funding as last year.