During the 2020-2021 school year, the Northern Lights Public Schools (NLPS) Board provided 150,000 meals at five schools that are part of the division’s nutrition program.
However, the program doesn’t stop there, in 2021-2022 over 90,000 meals are scheduled for NLPS students.
In addition to funding from the provincial government, NLPS received grants of $147,000 from the Breakfast Club of Canada, $23,000 from PC Children’s Charities, and $1,200 from APPLE Schools to help provide meals and snacks at schools throughout the division. Imperial Oil, Cenovus, TC Energy, and the Lac La Biche County Social Committee have also provided funding for the 2021-2022 school year.
Nicole Garner is the Communications Officer for NLPS and says that these meals are a vital tool for children who wish to learn. Going to school hungry is something no less fortunate child should ever have to face. But it’s a reality in the Lakeland.
“These meals are very important for students and their families,” Garner told Lakeland Connect. “If there was no funding, there would be numerous students at those schools who would come to school without having eaten breakfast and/or without a lunch.”
Garner says the funding allows them to provide nutritious meals to students. At some schools, this means starting the day with a good breakfast or a snack to add to the breakfast they had at home.
“At other schools, it is a nutritious lunch,” Garner said. “For some students, this means they get at least one meal a day consistently on school days throughout the school year. That, in turn, eases pressures on families who are struggling with food insecurity or having to choose between food and something else like paying a utility bill or rent.”
For other students, it is an opportunity to be exposed to new foods they might not have access to at home.
“Many students have tried different vegetables or foods for the first time in the meal program and discovered they liked something that was being served,” Garner said. “Not having enough to eat, or nutritious foods to eat, impacts learning.”
Garner says students who are hungry may find it hard to concentrate or may not have the energy to fully participate in learning.
“We greatly appreciate the support we have been given at the division level from our corporate partners and community organizations,” Garner told Lakeland Connect. “We also appreciate all of the support our schools have received through donations from their school councils, local businesses, and individuals. This supplements what we are able to do at the division level and includes things like healthy snack programs, backpacks full of food to send home with kids over weekends or school holidays, lunches for students at schools without a hot lunch program, and more.”
The NLPS cares about its students by starting their days with a full belly ensuring students have access to food at school is an important part of ensuring students are ready to learn.