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School nutrition program expanded across Alberta

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A school nutrition pilot project has been expanded to all school divisions in Alberta. Last year, $250,000 was given to 14 school boards, including Holy Family Catholic Regional Division, to make sure their students were getting a nutritious snack or meal every day.

The province says 33 schools were able to take part, benefiting more than 5,000 students.

“This program has been overwhelmingly positive in the communities where it’s already been introduced, and the results are quite impressive,” says Education Minister David Eggen. “We’ve seen improved student attendance, a decrease in negative behaviour and an increased sense of healthy food choices among students.”

The pilot project was initially given $3.5 million in funding, and another $10 million is included in the 2017 budget to expand it to the other 48 school boards. They will each get $141,000 to implement the program, while those involved this year will get another $250,000, as they were deemed the most in need.

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For the 2016 school year, $150,000 went to St. Stephen’s School in Valleyview to support their free lunch program and purchase appliances like a new stove, freezer and toaster. Junior high students also have a Foods option course 40 minutes before lunch, and help prepare the hot lunch program. Community members also come in to help prepare and clean up.

“Valleyview has a large percent of oilfield workers,” notes a provincial report. “As employment in this sector is currently unstable, many families are struggling with lower income, so the lunch program is very welcome. While some of the families may be able to provide the basics for breakfast and lunch, they may not be providing all of the food groups.”

The other $100,000 is used for the grab’n’go breakfast program at Holy Family School in Grimshaw. The province says students there are taking ownership of it, helping deliver the breakfast bins, clean up and recycle.

“Our breakfast program has taken the pressure off parents and allowed students to start the day off being fed with healthy foods,” an unnamed HFCRD staff member says.

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